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The Chris Mason-Battley Group

Whirimako Black


Whirimako Black (who recently received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in recognition of her invaluable contribution to the cultural landscape of Aotearoa/New Zealand) needs little introduction to those who are familiar with her extraordinary voice and impressive recorded output. Whirimako, of Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Ranginui, Kahungunu, Te Whakatohea, Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Te Arawa, and Ngati Awa descent, has six solo albums to her credit and has performed extensively throughout the country.

Her debut album, Hinepukohurangi: Shrouded in the Mist, won Best Maori Language Album at the 2001 NZ Music Awards, and is now approaching gold sales status. The inspiration for her second album, Hohou Te Rongo: Cultivate Peace, came from her daughter, Mihi Ki Te Kapua. "My whanau (family) are my puna - my source," says Whirimako. Her third album, the intimate Tangihaku, features guitarist Joel Haines and Whirimako’s long-time collaborator Justin Kereama on taonga pūoro. Her fourth, Kura Huna, is a beautifully evocative ‘soundscape’ featuring the internationally renowned oboe player, Russel Walder. Her groundbreaking bilingual jazz album, Soul Sessions, was the fastest-selling New Zealand jazz album of 2006, and was a finalist in the Best Jazz Album category at the 2007 New Zealand Music Awards. The follow-up, Whirimako Black Sings, continued the successful recipe of interpreting jazz standards with Maori language translations, and won Best Jazz Album at the 2008 New Zealand Music Awards. Whirimako continues to perform regularly in New Zealand and abroad.

Her new album, her first for Rattle, is Te More, a collaboration between Richard Nunns (taonga puoro) that has been recorded and produced by Steve Garden. On numerous occasions, Whirimako and Richard discussed the prospect of working together on a recording project that would be a very concentrated companion piece to Richard and Hirini Melbourne’s landmark achievement, Te Ku Te Whe (1994), and album focusing solely on taongo pūoro and vocals. The idea came to fruition in late 2009 when poet Glen Calhoune invited Whirimako, Richard and Steve to record at his Waikawa Beach home. This beautifully evocative and emotional album is the result.

Te More is a tribute to one of Maoridom’s most famous early composers, Mahi-ki-te-kapua (Tuhoe and Mataatua). Born in the late 1700s, she is regarded today as one of the great exponents of moteatea. The album consists of moteatea from Tuhoe, mostly written by Mahi-ki-te-kapua, but with some pieces composed especially for the album by Whirimako and Richard in the moteatea tradition. The simplicity and austerity of the music on Te More (and its provenance) situates it very closely to Te Ke Te Whe, and it is our hope that the album will one day take its place among the finest expressions of Maori art. Rattle is proud to release this fine recording, a work that brings together two of our finest musical treasures.


Maori is my first language, and music is my second. My mission is to promote Maori language and Maori art, and for the past fifteen years, I have dedicated my work (and first language skills) to helping to develop resources for Maori language speakers and those new to Te Reo.

Before I recorded my first Waiata Maori album, one person gave me hope that Maori language had an important place within New Zealand music culture, and that was my uncle Hirini Melbourne. His beautiful album, Te Ku Te Whe, was immeasurably important to me.

I first met Richard Nunns at Hirini’s tangihanga. There was immediate respect between us. We both share a mutual love of Maori (particularly Tuhoe) musical culture, and have often talked about recording a follow up to Te Ku Te Whe.

It is very exciting to be given the opportunity to work with Richard, Rattle and Steve Garden (who recorded Te Ku Te Whe, my favourite album). There are many stories to tell through music about Tuhoe and Tuhoe people today, and I wish to encourage all of our iwi singers and musicians to record this wealth of material for the generations to come.”

- Noho ora mai Whirimako Black.


Last Updated on Thursday, 02 July 2015 16:42