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Rotorua band TOHU’s latest release sparks attention with powerful message

William Sangster

Lead singer says the different cultures and languages in Australia inspired him

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A local band’s latest song is attracting attention for its powerful message about the importance of language and connection.

TOHU’S lead singer, Tamarakau Hiini (Te Arawa, Ngati Porou), says ‘Tū mai te Reo’ is about the connection to his te reo language when he was living abroad.

“I moved over to Australia in 2008, and was there for almost 12 years. I didn’t have many people to speak to and started lose my te reo.”

Hini says the different cultures and languages inspired him.

When you hear a lot of languages and a lot of cultures, like whether it’s Indian, Chinese, you name it, they’re not afraid to speak in a free to speak in their own language doesn’t matter where they are in the world.”

‘Tū mai te Reo’ has risen to number nine currently on the New Zealand Hot Top 20 Singles and is third on the te reo Māori charts.

“It’s about holding on to your roots, knowing where you come from, and not being afraid. For myself, our language It’s one of those spiritual connections to our ancestors and gifts,” he says.

Hini says TOHU wanted the song to be relatable to everyone.

“I wanted to create an easy listening song that people could understand the lyrics whether you, you know, matatau (fluent) or you’re just beginning.

“We also wanted to replicate the three main languages in Aotearoa, te reo Māori. English, and sign language so you can feel part of it, whether you understand it or not.”

Formed last December, the band from Rotorua also includes Trojan-John Te Rehu-Tuki (Tūhourangi, Ngāti Wāhiao ), on guitar and vocals,

Jonelle Williams (Ngāti Whātua) on drums, Elizabeth Chia, keyboards/vocals, and Jeamal Murray-Hohua, on bass/vocals.

Hiini says Tohu brings together more than 60 years of experience sustaining a bilingual culture and language through music. When TOHU was formed, the band wanted to put cultural values at the forefront.

“We believe in our values. We strive to commit to that, and that’s manaakitanga (care for each other), whanaungatanga (community), aroha (love), auahatanga (creativity), and kōrero (communication).

“We’re just riding the wave and enjoying this moment for what it is. We’re just truly blessed to be able to do what we love doing,” says Hiini. (edited)

Hero Image: Rotorua band TOHU has released a new single. Photo / Supplied

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