In this series, we present our new composers. We are proud to introduce Reuben Rameka.
Please tell us about yourself and what you do.
I am a New Zealand Māori composer, conductor and teacher based in Auckland, and I am primarily of Ngāpuhi and Te Arawa descent.
I grew up in South Auckland all of my life and was always surrounded by music. My family always enjoyed having parties where they would play music, sing waiata, dance and just generally have a good time. My grandfather also played several instruments, and also played for the band at his church. When I attended Aorere College, it was there where I met my mentor Dr Douglas Nyce, who encouraged me to pursue a career in music at a young age. I later went on to study for my Bachelors of Music at the University of Auckland majoring in composition. I had the honour and privilege to be taught under such renowned NZ composers such as Dr Leonie Holmes, Associate Professor Eve de Castro-Robinson and Dr John Coulter.
Recently, I have just completed my Graduate Diploma in Teaching and I am currently working full-time as a music curriculum teacher and choral director at Aorere College. I am also currently working as a freelance composer and arranger.
Please choose 2-3 of your works/albums and tell us about them.
Hīkoi is a work that was commissioned by the APO for the APO Summer School Finale Concert in 2019, during my time as the Rising Star young composer-in-residence. This piece depicts a hīkoi (journey) which we all encounter in our lives. In essence, it portrays how there may be troubles and misfortune in life, but there also can be happiness and joy as well.
E Ka Tanuku is a special piece of mine because it was written in memory of my tupuna Kepa Hamuera Anaha Ehau (1885-1970), who worked in the Second Maori Contingent during the First World War. It describes his travellings, from Egypt to France, how he was attacked by shellfire from the Germans and how he eventually lost both his legs. The phrase ‘E Ka Tanuku’ means ‘It has collapsed’, and is from a very popular whaikōrero (speech) Kepa used to say at a tangi (funeral). This piece was written for two pianos and voice, and won the Llewelyn Jones Piano Composition Competition in 2018. You can hear the premiere of this piece below, performed by Soomin Kim, Lulu Feng and myself.
Haeretanga o Mataatua (the final resting place of Mataatua) is a work for brass trio and depicts the story of Ngāpuhi tupuna Puhi-moana-ariki and one of the great voyaging waka (canoes), Mataatua. The story goes that Puhi-moana-ariki (an ancestor of the Ngāpuhi tribe) arrived at Takou with a husband, Kohakoha, wife, Tawhiura, and their children on board. The couple were quarrelling for some reason and in the heat of their argument, the sea whipped up and they were unable to enter the Takou river. Puhi commanded everyone to be tossed overboard and suddenly the storm abated. Puhi chanted and turned everyone to stone. At the entrance of the river lies the boulders Kohakoha, Tawhiurau and their children and they became the guardians of the entrance. Puhi feared the waka would be stolen so he took it further up the Takou awa and turned it into stone also. You can listen to this piece being workshopped by the ACE Brass Trio during the APO ‘Our Voice’ Ensemble project 2018.
What are you working on at the moment?
I still maintain a good relationship with the APO, so much so that they want to commission me two more full orchestra pieces for 2021. We are looking at the Kiwi Kapers Concert 2021, where I’ll be working closely with the Pacifica Mamas from the Pacific Arts Center. I am also looking forward to a concert coming up in Waitangi, which has been organised between my father and the APO. I am also writing music for a film project ‘The Difference Between Pipi and Pūpū’, and is directed by whanaunga Tajim Mohammed-Kapa. You can read more about it here.