Young boy takes out the kapaoke at Te Matatini with 300-year-old waiata

By Kawe Roes

Kapaoke winner of Te Matatini ki te Ao, Whakamoe Wagner, with MC Sonny Ngatai. 

Waikaremoana locals are over the moon for one of their own after Whakamoe Wagner (Tūhoe/Te Whānau-a-Apanui/Te Ātiawa) won the kapaoke competition at Te Matatini this year, bagging him return flights to Rarotonga and $1,000 spending money. 

His mother says, "My son woke...with a smile from ear to ear" after he found out he had won.

The waiata, Tarakihi, was chosen as Wagner was taught it at school by his kapa haka tutor and whānaunga at Te Kura o Waikaremoana, Kui Wano, who wanted to show the tamariki the operatic side of kapa haka.

A big thanks from Whakamoe to his supporters - Facebook / Tina Wagner

Whakamoe took to social media to say thank you to his fans and supporters before finishing off with his winning waiata.

It was the first Te Matatini Festival he had ever been to.

"Boy thought he was busking to help get him and his cousin home" says Mrs Wagner.  However, she had already bankrolled the trip for the tamariki.

Whakamoe Wagner's winning performance at Kapaoke at Te Matatini - Facebook / AHEIHA

The children are taught songs that mean something for them and the meaning behind the waiata. 

"They hear [tarakihi] every morning when they wake up in Te Urewera, they know that it is the song of nature, the song of Te Urewera and sung in summer time when Hineraukatauri is at her highest point." says Mrs Wagner. 

Dame Kiri Te Kawana version of Tarakihi where Whakamoe was inspired? - YouTube

The late Mahina-a-rangi Tocker (Ngāi Raukawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto) who sung with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa on the compilation album, Maori Songs, discusses the waiata.

"My old people told me that Tarakihi is from Ngāti Maniapoto.  It is more than 300 years old and talks about the cicada as a huge strength.  Hiding in a cave at night and coming out to sing its stories by day.  It's a symbolic story of people."

Full performances from #AHEIHA Kapaoke. 

Wagner has never been overseas and his mother and father will be taking him to Rarotonga for his birthday.

As for the $1,000?  "He can't comprehend past $10, let alone $100!." says Mrs Wagner.

Also shining bright in the competition were Torere Wilson who came second, winning $500 cash and Wailan Tuhakaraina, who came 3rd, winning $250.