Season 3, Episode 4

He Reo Tawhito

A conversation with Jerome Kavanagh


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 change? Who are some key composers or 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

Grammy award-winning soloist and Māori musical instrument specialist Jerome Kavanagh hails from the Mōkai Pātea, Maniapoto and Kahungunu iwi in New Zealand, and from the Caomhanach clan in Ireland. For over twenty years, he has traversed the globe with his collection of taonga puoro (Māori musical instruments), sharing the exquisite sounds and songs of the natural world and the beautiful traditions of our tūpuna (ancestors).

In He Reo Tawhito, a Conversation about Mōteatea and Taonga Puoro with Jerome Kavanagh, we hear how mōteatea and taonga puoro go hand-in-hand, weaving together beautifully to tell stories that are ‘sung from the past, into the present, and into the future’. Jerome describes mōteatea as a connection:

“It’s telling stories of our tūpuna and significant places, and that’s really about connection. That’s what it is for me—mōteatea is a connection”. 

Jerome explains how mōteatea has intimately influenced the way in which he creates sound and waiata through taonga puoro, weaving the mauri of mōteatea and puoro together to acknowledge the connection between two taonga. 

He also explores the influence that the taiao (natural environment) has on mōteatea and taonga puoro, as elements like the sound of the wind and phrases sung by manu (birds) provide patterns, structure, and inspiration for compositions.  

“For me, mōteatea and puoro all comes from the taiao—the sound, the rangi, are directly from the taiao”. 

Hear Jerome’s vision for the future of mōteatea, and find out why mōteatea and taonga puoro sit together so harmoniously in this beautifully uplifting and moving conversation about mōteatea and taonga puoro.

Host: Crystal Edwards
Guest: Jerome Kavanagh

Links & Resources
Oro Atua – a puoro Māori sound healing journey

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
Oro Atua – a puoro Māori sound healing journey, performed by and thanks to Jerome Kavanagh.
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.


Jerome Kavanagh

Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Kahungunu me te rohe o Mōkai Pātea.

Grammy award winning soloist and Maori musical instrument specialist Jerome Kavanagh (Poutama) hails from the Mokai Patea, Maniapoto and Kahungunu tribes (Maori) as well as the Caomhanach clan (Irish). He was first introduced to the sound of Taonga Puoro by one of his aunties at the age of 16. A family owned Koauau (Maori cross blown flute) was the first instrument he recalls learning to play.

Maintaining his strong roots, Jerome has become part of a movement introducing Maori music, art and culture to the world. Over his career he has performed and recorded with artists across a variety of genres ranging from hip hop to classical. His collaborations include the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Moana and the Tribe, Daniel Beddingfeild, Hayley Westenra, Joler Gaan, Kevin Mark Trail “The Streets” and two-time Grammy award winning composer Christopher Tin. In Kia Hora te Marino, Jerome joins only a handful of New Zealand musicians as a featured solo artist and lyricist on the two-time Grammy award winning album Calling All Dawns, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 2011. Jerome has performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, the Sydney Opera house, the British Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum and was a selected member of the New Zealand Art Delegation at the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands.

In addition to his performing career, Jerome is one of New Zealand’s most prolific Taonga Puoro workshop providers in schools. At present he travels, sharing his interactive live show “Power to the Puoro” with thousands of children in Aotearoa, New Zealand as well as at universities, museums, colleges, indigenous communities and sound healing events worldwide.

Jerome is the 2022 Creative New Zealand/New Zealand School of Music Composer-in-Residence and resides in the Lilburn Residence otherwise known as ‘The Magpie House’.