Season 3, Episode 3

He Reo Tawhito

A conversation with Ariana Tikao


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 does mōteatea mean to you? Traditionally, why were they composed, and how have they changed? Who are some key composers of mōteatea and how have they influenced your music?

‘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

2020 Arts Foundation Laureate Ariana Tikao is a singer, composer and leading player of taonga puoro who brings to life ancestral stories through song. She is among the current generation of artists and leaders rejuvenating taonga puoro, following in the footsteps of Hirini Melbourne and her mentors Richard Nunns and Brian Flintoff.

 In He Reo Tawhito, a conversation about Mōteatea with Ariana Tikao, Ariana describes mōteatea as a key to unlocking the emotions of the past. We’re provided a glimpse into the powerful emotive memories that link mōteatea to their wāhi whakahirahira (significant sites), enabling us to connect with the powerful and often heightened emotions that were felt at the time in which the mōteatea were composed.

 Ariana speaks about the loss of mōteatea in her rohe, and how this lead her to work with written texts, setting them to music so that they can live and breathe again. She describes how her nine-year career in Libraries and Archives at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington gave her access to a vast array of texts which she has been able to draw from and infuse into her own compositions.  

Interwoven with musical excerpts, Ariana takes us through a number of examples of her work as a composer, including Titi Whakatai Arorua and Kō te tātai whetū, a special collaboration with Phil Brownlee and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. We hear how Ariana is a musical artist with a genuine and profound connection to mōteatea. 

Join Ariana Tikao and our host Crystal Edwards for this musical and deeply personal conversation about mōteatea.

Host: Crystal Edwards
Guest: Ariana Tikao

Links & Resources
Tēnei Pori ki Ōnawe
Pupuhi Rau
Titi whakatai arorua
Ko Te Tātai Whetū
Ka Taka te Mōtoi
Ko Te Tātai Whetū

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

Special thanks to

Tēnei Pori ki Ōnawe performed by and thanks to Ariana Tikao.
Pupuhi Rau performed by and thanks to Ariana Tikao and the Tikao Whānau.
Tītī Whakatai Arorua performed by and thanks to Ariana Tikao.
Ka Taka te Mōtoi performed by and thanks to Ariana Tikao with Al Fraser;  and Ko Te Tātai Whetū thanks to Ariana Tikao and Philip Brownlee, performed with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey.
Thanks to Adrian Wagner and Te Reo Irirangi o Te Upoko o te Ika
Cover Art: Kennedy Kioa Toi Faimanifo of Manatoa Productions

This podcast is supported by funding from Toi Aotearoa | Creative New Zealand, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and Recorded Music 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.


Ariana Tikao

Kāi Tahu

Ariana is a singer, composer, leading player of taonga puoro (Māori instruments) and New Zealand Arts Laureate. She writes waiata exploring themes relating to her Kāi Tahu identity and mana wahine, often drawing upon historical kōrero from her ancestors.

She started performing in 1993 with the folk group Pounamu, and has subsequently released three solo albums: Whaea (2002), Tuia (2008), and From Dust to Light (2012); and has been involved with many collaborative projects, including Emeralds and Greenstone, Auaha, and Ihimaera.

She has been mentored by Richard Nunns, Brian Flintoff, and Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan three of the people who have led the taonga puoro revival. She regularly works with other taonga puoro exponents, such as Alistair Fraser and Ruby Solly, collaborating and sharing her knowledge through wānanga.

In 2008 she was a soloist in the World of Wearable Arts show in Wellington, and that same year performed in the Pao Pao Pao festival at the Wellington Town Hall, where she was presented with an achievement award from Toi Māori.

In 2015 Ariana and Philip Brownlee were commissioned by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO), to compose the first concerto for taonga puoro ‘Ko te tātai whetū’. Ariana performed it with the CSO that year, and later with Stroma and the Nelson Symphony Orchestra.

She has also performed with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the New Zealand String Quartet, and in 2016 was a featured singer in John Psathas’s epic international collaboration ‘No Man’s Land’. In 2021 Ariana performed taonga puoro and sang with Māori thrash metal band Alien Weaponry and the NZSO, and again with the NZSO in the newly commissioned ‘Ngā Hihi o Matariki’ symphony that she also collaborated on with composer Gareth Farr, and singer Mere Boynton.

Ariana’s music has featured on television, film, theatre, dance, and in online videos. Whatever the setting for her music, Ariana always brings artistic integrity, and what one reviewer described as “depth and dignity,” making her a sought-after talent and collaborator in the arts scene in New Zealand today. She is also a published writer and poet.