In our Meet the Board series we invite you to sit down and learn more about each SOUNZ board member. Today we introduce Board member | Te Poari Kaitiaki Tama Waipara.

Tell us a bit yourself.

Ko Manawaru te Maunga
Manawaru is the mountain

Ko Te Arai te awa
Te Arai is the river

Ko Horouta te waka
Horouta is the vessel

Ko Ruapani, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou ōku iwi
Ruapani, Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Porou are my iwi

Ko Ngai Tāwhiri, Ngai te Kete ngā hapū
Ngai Tāwhiri and Ngāi Te Kete are the sub-tribes

Ko Tama Waipara tōku ingoa
My name is Tama Waipara

What is one of your earliest musical memories?

Seeing a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute in Christchurch, I was probably about 7 or 8 years old and went along with my mother who was a flautist. I fell asleep halfway through but always remember it being an impressive spectacle complete with smoke and a dragon….I’m not too sure about the dragon.

What do you think makes the music of Aotearoa New Zealand unique?

The connection to the land has a unifying and pronounced presence in the sounds and music of Aotearoa. Our music and instruments have whakapapa, and understanding those connections is hugely influential in the sounds we know today.

Provide a brief overview of your personal journey with music.

Music was always present in our home and was a central part of the everyday. My parents had wide-ranging tastes and both played instruments. I learnt to play the clarinet at school but was heavily influenced by all the sounds of home and in particular the songs of Hirini Melbourne. Throughout high school in Opotiki and Whakatane, I played clarinet and saxophone before studying more seriously at the University of Auckland and then a Masters degree at Manhattan School of Music in New York. New York really fed my ears and eyes in a profound way but also helped reinforce the beauty of being Māori and coming from Aotearoa. It was in New York that I also became a singer and songwriter, finding opportunities to experiment and grow and ultimately moving home to pursue this. Since then I’ve had many more opportunities to grow creatively and in many different platforms.


I’m passionate about the music of our place and the need to embrace all of the beauty of who we are in Aotearoa.

Why is music important to New Zealand culture?

Music is a central part of the historical fabric of who we are in Aotearoa. Waiata are taonga. Precious and rich in history, waiata carry whakapapa, the many histories of our tipuna – ancestral and genealogical links to knowledge passed down through generations, holding moments of longing and remembrance to the biting pain of loss. Waiata are our universities, classrooms and photo albums. Waiata Māori has survived bans, beatings and legislative batterings. They have been chanted, sung and roared from one end of our land to the other. From faraway stadiums to the beating heart of our Marae this unbroken continuum of waiata and composition has held aloft our beautiful language – te reo Māori.

In today’s Aotearoa, our waiata are more potent and pertinent than ever, carrying the battle cries of struggle and inspiring the awe and delight of our contemporary times.

Once likened to me by my father as the throaty chuckle of kereru, te reo Māori is a language made for singing.

Why is music important in schools?

Music is a tangible way of expressing the sometimes intangible. The value of unlocking our learning potential while in this formative stage is immeasurable.

What is the importance of music in society?

Music is the every day. Music is whakapapa. Whakapapa is the song of the universe.

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