Kiwi singer-songwriter Bic Runga is joining many homegrown artists celebrating Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori with a revamped version of her hit song Sway in a new all-Māori language album.
Waiata/Anthems, released last Friday, features a collection of well-known songs translated into te reo by Bic Runga, Six60, Stan Walker, Drax Project and more.
Runga, who has Māori and Chinese-Malaysian ancestry, said singing her song Sway in te reo was a journey of connecting to her roots, describing it as a homecoming for the song.
She told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning she “jumped at the chance” when album producer and singer-songwriter Hinewehi Mohi approached her.
“I’ve never spoken Māori before, and to be given this invitation by Hinewehi, you know, this is the inner circle of, like, the Māori language,” she said.
She said she found the kaupapa “meaningful” but challenging. She said it made her realise she had been “bumbling along not knowing much” about the Māori side of her identity.
“It was really hard. I did the vocal about 60 times.
“It’s really piqued my interest in everything Māori... I could spend the rest of my life discovering this stuff,” she said.
She said Sir Tīmoti Kāretu’s translation “breathes new life” into Sway, which was released in 1997 as part of her debut album Drive.
“I love singing it in Māori now. It just comes out of you in a totally different way.”
Runga said she had plans to enrol in a Te Reo Māori immersion course with her family.
The album’s release also coincides with the 20th anniversary of Mohi’s performance at the 1999 Rugby World Cup quarter final against England.
In front of 70,000 people at Twickenham, Mohi opted to sing the national anthem only in Māori.
The move was met with backlash. At the All Blacks’ next test against France, she was told to sing only in English.
“People were really angry,” she told TVNZ’s Sunday.
Speaking about the album, she said: “I feel like a proud auntie when I hear these young ones.”
In a statement, Mohi said: "It was a difficult time, but I thought, rather than not talking about it because it is important to talk about painful things sometimes I would try to find a way to make the anniversary significant and use it as a platform to promote Te Reo Māori.
"These tracks are well known to people, so they can connect the English words they know to the Māori translation and feel like they're accessing Te Reo Māori through something familiar."
She said she was grateful the artists accepted the challenge, with a number featured on the album not te reo speakers.