Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns
Great New Zealanders; distinguished scholars and artists; two of the most important musicians in a generation
Maori composer, music educator and author the late Hirini Melbourne (Tuhoe and Ngati Kahungunu) began his teaching career as a primary school teacher, writing songs for children and became renowned for his work in Maori language as well as music. Today, students in most classrooms in Aotearoa have been exposed to Hirini’s songs, creating a long lasting connection between his music, Maori language and many thousands of young people.
Richard Nunns is one of New Zealand’s most remarkable musicians. From the extremes of avant-guard jazz this red-haired Pakeha has become a living authority on Taonga Puoro (Maori traditional instruments) a journey that required a great deal of “respect, perseverance and sensitivity” — all of which is illustrated in his music.
It was together however through a collaboration lasting over 20 years that these two great friends (together with master carver Brian Flintoff) went about the gentle re-awakening of the traditional Maori instruments that had been lying silent in museums for generations. Today, we have grown accustomed to hearing the voices of these instruments in our music, in kapa haka, in the background of radio or television programmes, in contemporary music (via the likes of Tiki Taane) or the sound for instance of the purerehua (the bull-roarer) at All Black games. Without thinking too much about it we simply assume that the music has always been there. This is far from the case. Without the commitment, patience and hard work of these two, who combined artistic ability and dedicated research, the ancestral voices would still be silent.
“This is one of the most significant stories in New Zealand music — an instrumental tradition lost for more than a century but, against all odds, bought back to life. It’s an extraordinary story of extraordinary people” says APRA’s Director of NZ Operations, Anthony Healey.
“These two and their achievements sit right alongside the icons of NZ music. Like Ray Columbus and the Invaders, Jordan Luck, the Topp Twins or Straitjacket Fits, Hirini and Richard’s achievements are long-lasting and hugely significant” he says.