Season2, Episode 4

He Reo Tawhito

A conversation with Dr Taiarahia Black

Mōteatea is a centuries-old tradition of chanted song-poetry; a great literary and musical art form that expresses the powerful portrayal of storytelling and is reflective of the emotional depths of a Māori world view. Its vast richness is yet to be fully understood. 

In these eleven episodes, over three series, hosted by Crystal Edwards, we hold conversations with some of the world’s leading experts on mōteatea and ask them: What exactly is mōteatea? How has it changed since colonisation? What issues does it face today?

‘He Reo Tawhito’ is available on all major platforms.

Click any of the links below to listen.

Please note: This podcast is spoken in te reo Māori & English

Dr Taiarahia Black is an internationally regarded expert in Māori language revitalisation. His PhD Kāore te aroha– : te hua o te wānanga, completed at Massey in 2000, was the first PhD thesis at any university to be published in te reo Māori. He is a professor at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi, and through his various roles as a teacher, writer of traditional and contemporary Māori language resources, researcher, and doctoral supervisor he is involved in numerous Māori language projects.

In He Reo Tawhito, a conversation about Mōteatea with Dr Taiarahia Black, Taiarahia shares his in-depth academic perspective with a light-hearted twist. We’re taken on a journey through the Raupatu Settlements of Tūhoe and the way in which mōteatea are legally being used as evidence to support claims. Taiarahia shares his admiration for poetry and describes what it was that drew him to the literary works of Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth, Socrates, and Plato. 

Taiarahia also reminisces about his time as a young boy growing up in Ruatoki, and tells us what inspired him to begin his research into mōteatea and literature from a young age. 

“I uru mai te mataku ki roto i a au kei ngaro ngā taonga nei. Koina i tīmata ai au ki te hīkoi i roto i a mātou ki te kohi i ngā taonga nei.” [It frightened me that these treasures would be lost. That’s why I started the journey of collecting and gathering the stories of our mōteatea.]

One clear message that we get from Taiarahia is that of the importance of the people—everything we do must be inclusive of the people.

“Mōteatea to me is about the reconstruction of a community, through the power of poetry.”

Join our host Crystal Edwards for many engaging stories about mōteatea in this bilingual (te reo Māori and English) conversation with Dr Taiarahia Black.

Host: Crystal Edwards
Guest: Dr Taiarahia Black

Links & Resources
Kāore te pō nei
Engari te titi 

Production team
Producers: Toni Huata & Roger Smith
Sound Engineer: Phil Brownlee
Research: Dr Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal
Production Assistance: Ngahuia Maniapoto, Kelly Mata, Nina Lesperance, Jonathan Engle, Alpana Chovhan
Marketing: Leoné Venter
Executive Producer: Diana Marsh

Special thanks to
Special thanks to Dr Taiarahia Black, Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and Tūmeke FM forKāore te pō nei,
Mihi ki-te-kapua, Ngāi Tūhoe and Dame Hinewehi Mohi for Engari te tītī.
Thanks to Adrian Wagner and Te Upoko o Te Ika
Cover Art: Kennedy Kioa Toi Faimanifo of Manatoa Productions

This podcast is supported by funding from Creative New Zealand.



© Copyright Centre for New Zealand Music Trust


Crystal Edwards

Hokahoka atu rā tēnei maioha ki a koutou katoa.

Crystal Edwards is a proud Ngāti Kahungunu woman who resides in the beautiful Hawkes Bay. She currently works for The Eastern Institute of Technology as an evening tutor, teaching Te Reo Māori over a range of classes.

From 2013 – 2020 Crystal worked as an iwi radio announcer and broadcaster for Radio Kahungunu. This role led her to Emcee work for Ngāti Kahungunu. She has hosted, emceed and entertained many events ranging from local community gatherings to national events such as Te Matatini Te Kahu o Te Amorangi 2017, The National Māori Music Awards and The National Māori Housing Conference 2020. She also coordinated an international Tā-Moko expenditure to Europe, travelling to six countries in 2018 with four Kahungunu Tā-Moko specialists.

“Ngāti Kahungunu has been the cornerstone to my success, and I am truly blessed to have built respect among my people. My network continues to grow, ranging from national to international contacts.”

Crystal’s latest accomplishment is being accepted as a member to Toast Masters International at the local branch in Hastings.

“I’ve always wanted to upskill in this area, simply because this is where I feel most comfortable and where my skills and talents lay.”

Crystal continues to be an emcee, host and public speaker, developing this talent by using Te Reo Māori as a vessel to showcase the events she is invited to.


Dr Taiarahia Black

Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Whānau a Apanui, Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Te Rangi

Taiarahia Black was born in Whakatane and educated at Ruatoki Primary School, Kawerau College, and St Stephen’s School.

He studied at the University of Waikato and in 1981 started working as a junior lecturer in the Māori Studies Department at Massey University; he is currently a Senior Lecturer at the same institution. His qualifications include: “two lovely boys, a dad involved in Kōhanga Reo and Kaupapa Māori and he is happily married.”

He has written some 23 papers since 1982 some of which are for tribal viewing only and others which are for public viewing. He has also compiled audio visual work. His PhD is on traditional waiata of the Tuhoe people.

Over the last ten years he has been publishing traditional songs of Tuhoe, filming people performing these waiata. He has written plays and poems in a classroom setting. Two papers were written in 1986 and 1987 for the London Ethnographic Film Conference and the Museum of Mankind Spring lecture series hosted by the Anthropological Institute and Raymond Firth.

His written material comes from the collective wisdom of many people, and when he delivers his papers he brings those people with him.

* Photo credit: Shelley Black