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Breaking Down Barriers

APRA Silver Scroll Finalists. Photo: Supplied.
History is being made at one of Aotearoa's most recognised awards - we hear from those driving the change as well as the Arts Minister in this week's Lowdown.


The winners of the APRA Silver Scroll won’t be known until October - but history has already been made.

The final five has been announced this morning from the 20-song long list, and it’s believed to be the first time that two bi-lingual songs have made it through to the finalists.  Certainly, there hasn’t been a song that heavily features both te reo Māori and English in this category since Tahi by Moana and the Moahunters was a contender in 1994.

Take stock of that - for a country that’s proudly called itself bicultural - it’s taken until 2021 to be able to achieve this moment. Waiata in te reo Māori can easily be kept in its lane; the Maioha award at the Silver Scrolls is there to ensure songs written in Aotearoa’s indigenous language gets celebrated. 

The barriers are being broken down.

It also means that two artists who are playing a role in the revitalisation of te reo Māori music get two bites at the cherry to win the coveted songwriting award - that in itself is an impressive feat.

Maisey Rika’s Hiwa-i-te-rangi (co-written by Callum Rei McDougall and Chris Chetland) and Turangawaewae written and performed by Tipene AKA Stephen Harmer, Troy Kingi and Rika (with Tenei Kesha also getting a writing credit) fuse both native languages of Aotearoa.  King also has All Your Ships Have Sailed vying for the top prize.

The Beths’ Jump Rope Gazers and Anthonie Tonnon’s Leave Love Out Of This also make the shortlist.

Speaking to The Lowdown from lockdown in Kerikeri, Kingi sees the recognition of the bilingual tunes as a big deal.  “This (top five) has been judged by everyone that’s part of APRA, so for artists to be picking these on its merit as a song, I feel like we’ve come a long way. 

“Just to see so many Māori songs coming to light in the last few years is cool. It’s something that me and all my Māori counterparts have talked about for a long time, the more music that goes out on the radio waves in te reo, the more it becomes normalised.

"It’s now not just a Māori song, it’s now a cool song that just happens to be in Māori. It has felt a bit of a token gesture in the past, I feel like it’s changing.”  

Rika - from her whānau’s bubble in Whakatāne, echoed those sentiments. “Are we moving there, eh Aotearoa?” she enthuses to The Lowdown. “I’m hoping it’s reflective of where we are e hoa, and that we’re going to have te reo Māori taught in schools, for that I feel hopeful that it’s tohu (sign) of the times.

“It shows me there’s been a bit of a shift. It’s already a win-win for me.”

Kingi continues to collect praise for his mahi as part of his ambitious 10:10:10 series - 10 albums, 10 genres in 10 years. It’s already garnered him a Taite Music Award for creativity and he was a finalist last year at the Silver Scrolls with Mighty Invader.

All Your Ships Have Sailed is from his funk-inspired The Ghost of Freddie Ceasar, which Kingi describes as “one of my favourite, if not my favourite of the five albums I’ve put out so far.”

He adds “What makes me proudest of that song is that it’s now my most listened to track on Spotify. True Love has been there for a long time, as much as I love that song, I’m so glad it’s been pushed out because it was such a long time ago and whenever I play gigs, everyone gets me to play that song. Hopefully there’s going to be a big push at my live shows to want to hear All Your Ships Have Sailed.”

Rika’s nominated Silver Scrolls single is also a passion project, written and recorded during Lockdown and the Black Lives Matter movement last year. “It was just a joy and pleasure to create,” she beams.  

Hiwa-i-te-rangi is the name of the youngest star of the Matariki constellation. According to the kōrero I’ve had with (astronomer) Rangi Mātāmua, she’s the star that pertains to all our wishes. In that song, in the lyrics itself in both te reo and English, that’s one wish there, a wish of unity, of prosperity.”

Rika and Kingi have more than just a history of collaboration - they teamed up with Stan Walker to win the Maioha award in 2015 with Stan Walker for Aotearoa - they have history full stop.

Kingi explains “We actually went to Te Kōhanga Reo (Māori immersion pre-school) together when we were three or four years old and we were at primary school together before she ended up moving to Whakatāne and I didn’t see her again until her brother JJ started boarding school with me and ended up being one of my best friends. 

“It’s funny to start so young and to meet again on the same journey down the track.” 

It’s that connection that led to Rika’s involvement in Turangawaewae. “It’s Tipene baby, he asked me if I knew Maisey and I said ‘uhhh - yup’ (laughs) so I sent the song to her and she put her magic on it. It was pretty organic, it wasn’t a hard thing, it was real natural and real fast.”

Rika could also be in for more history at the 14 October ceremony - she’s nominated in the Maioha category again this year for Waitī Waitā, (co-written with Seth Haapu). Victory would make it the third song she’s been a part of to claim that award.

Dealing with Delta

Kingi’s one of many in the creative community forced to pause his schedule by the current Lockdown.  He was due to perform in Nelson on the day Level Four was announced - with shows in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland all postponed as well.

The long list of locations of interest during this current Lockdown has accumulated a smattering of arts venues along the way like Auckland Art Gallery, TAPAC and the Pumphouse Theatre.

COVID’s return has also put extra pressure on the film industry still reeling from the Amazon Lord of the Rings withdrawal (covered in last week’s Lowdown). Stuff’s Andre Chumko has looked into how the sector is handling this latest lockdown.

For those looking for resources to help guide arts organisations, businesses and practitioners through this latest Lockdown, we’ve put a collection of them together here for easy reference.

The Big Idea reached out to Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni to discuss the impact on the creative community.

She has told The Lowdown “I have seen first-hand the effects of changing Alert Levels on our sector. Challenging decisions have to be made, sometimes overnight, to cancel live events, postpone performances, and delay openings. 

“Our museums and galleries have had to shut their doors again, and our events and venues sector suffer with the uncertainties that come from living through a global pandemic.

“Our arts, culture and heritage sector is strong and resilient, and over the last week, I have seen the sector once again shift to offer digital experiences and thrive in new and exciting ways. (Sepuloni has included links to many locally-driven digital delivery options here on her Facebook page.)

“I want to take this opportunity to encourage people to support our sector virtually, and make the most of their online offerings. Art and culture can help us to feel connected, even when we physically are not.”

Festival blow

Even when Alert Levels drop, not all doors will re-open.

Over 50 years of tradition with the Christchurch Arts Festival is under threat, according to The Press.

The biennial event was scheduled to return this year - but it’s “on hold indefinitely” after returning a $385,000 loss in its 2019 edition.

Festival trust chairwoman Jane Gregg said the foundation now only had reserves of $100,000, which was not enough to underwrite any future festival. 


Crafty direction

Luana Walker. Photo: Supplied.

Lockdown hasn’t brought everything in the sector to a grinding halt.

Corban Estate Arts Centre has announced Luana Walker as its new Director, succeeding Martin Sutcliffe in the role. 

As well as being a Waitākere local, Walker has worked in prominent roles at Auckland Council where she was the Creative Programme Lead and Manager of Arts and Culture Programme Planning.

Across town, Silo Theatre has confirmed Chloe Weavers will take over as Executive Director when Jessica Smith finishes up in October.

Chloe Weavers. Photo: Supplied.

Weavers has spent the past decade based in Melbourne and brings strong governance and leadership experience to the role, having led and produced theatre, festivals, arts and community events across Australasia.

And a key appointment in the crafts community, with Dr Bronwyn Lloyd (pictured below) named as the 2021 Blumhardt Curator at The Dowse.

Lloyd has a reputation as an innovative and respected independent curator and has curated projects for Objectspace and Lopdell House Gallery.

The position is part of a new programme developed by the Blumhardt Foundation in partnership with Creative New Zealand - and hosted by both The Dowse in Lower Hutt and the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui.

Lloyd will curate a 2022 exhibition on the history of the craft in the region, dating back to the Petone wool mills in the 1880s through to contemporary artisanal makers.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

26 Aug 2021

The Big Idea Editor