Paving the way for rangatahi through music

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Māori singing sensation Rob Ruha (Ngāti Porou/Te Whānau a Apanui) is bringing together 20 rangatahi from the Horouta Waka region in Te Tairāwhiti for a special project called 'Ka Hao'.

“In kapa haka that's what I do, is nurture youth so they hold the ways of our ancestors, but now I have other initiatives in my hands for singing as a group. That's what our younger ones really like, is singing together beyond kapa haka," says Ruha.

One of the songs he's written for the rangatahi to perform draws on Māori cultural ties with Hawai'i and the different beautification practices each culture follows.

"They (Kanaka Maoli) keenly wear flowers in their ears, but Māori throw away the flower and will take up the feather of a bird. So looking at those cultural practices of Māori and our relatives overseas, revealing the similarities and implementing them as content for our rangatahi to sing about," he says.

At just 12 years of age, Ruha wrote his first song in Wharekāhika. The critically acclaimed artist is renowned for his signature sound and distinct East Coast flavour.

“I remember when I was a child here in Wharekahika, I liked the days when the wind was blowing. I would go into the field and lie down, stretch out in the grass this high, listen to the wind, listen to the grass moving, the ocean rumbling, those are the things that inspire me to write music.”

Ruha says writing music is an avenue through which he can convey Māori philosophy.

“Perhaps a certain wind is blowing, from there a narrative will evolve, topics that are current, the history of our ancestors, the oral literature, that's my favourite content when writing music is the traditional narratives of our elders.”

The 'Ka Hao' group are preparing to perform on the East Coast in October.