Toni Huata
Kaihautū Puoro Māori | Director of Māori Music.

Toni, Ngāti Kahungunu and Rongowhakaata, was the inaugural appointment to the role of  Kaihautū Puoro Māori | Director of Māori Music in 2019. She brings a wide variety of skills and experience to this role, including manager, director, producer and performer. She is well known within the cultural sector in New Zealand as a practitioner and promoter of Māori culture, music and performance. Toni has shown a strong commitment to Māori music through her work with numerous organisations in both leadership roles and as a composer, musician, performer and facilitator. She has served in governance roles with Te Runanga o Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Whanganui ā Tara, Pūatatangi – Toi Māori Aotearoa, Taki Rua Productions, Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and other iwi and Māori agencies. 

In our Meet the Team series we invite you to sit down and learn more about each SOUNZ staff member. Today we introduce Toni Huata our Kaihautū Puoro Māori | Director of Māori Music.

Can you tell us a bit about your family, kids, where you’re from etc?

Tēnā koutou katoa,
I te taha o tōku kōka,

He mokopuna au nā Te Okanga Kahutapere Huata raua ko Ngaro Rangi. Ko Hera Ropine Te Hoangaro Huata tōku kōka.

Ko Whakapunake a te matau a Maui Tikitiki a Taranga te maunga
Ko Te Wairoa Hopupu Honengenenge Matangirau te awa
Ko Tākitimu te waka
Ko Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Mihi me Ngai Tamaterangi ngā hapu
Ko Waipapa a Iwi Mohaka, Ramoto Kireara me Rangiāhua ngā marae
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi

Ko Puketapu, Titirangi, Papatu me Manawaru ngā maunga
Ko Te Arai me Waikanae ngā awa
Ko Horouta me Tākitimu ngā waka
Ko Ngai Tāwhiri, Te Whānau a Iwi, Ngāti Maru, Ngai Te Kete, Ngāti Kaipoho me Ngai Te Aweawe ngā hapu
Ko Te Kuri a Tuatai, Whakato, Ohako, Pahou me Manutuke ngā marae
Ko Rongowhakaata te iwi

Nō Tiamana (Germany), te tīpuna o tōku koroua matua Te Okanga. Ko Fredrich Adolpus Henrici tōna ingoa.

I te taha o tōku pāpā,

He mokopuna au nā Partick Beacham (nō Ireland / Scandinavia) raua ko Agnes Joseph, Fakari (nō Lebanon). Ko Jeff Beacham tōku pāpā.

Ko Adrian Tangaroa Wagner tōku whaiaipo.
Ko Te Okanga raua ko Ropine ō maua tamariki
Ko Toni Huata ahau.

Kia ora tātau,

Where did you grow up?

I grew up with an extended family heavily involved in Māori performing arts, kapahaka and composition of waiata Māori. Very musical and committed to each other, our arts, our iwi and culture. We have forefront and background roles that all function in unison within my wider family and I enjoy the varied personalities that they all bring. Actually, it makes me laugh thinking about some of these personalities but I have to say they are strongly rooted in looking out for one another and are hard working. From cultivators of the land to teachers to composers, I am proud of them all. My own immediate family (my mother, aunties, uncles/brothers) are a little more in the background but we are very close. My grandparents whom I was brought up by, were leaders within our iwi and within Māoridom. My grandmother Ngaro Huata (nee Rangi) is from Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Kahungunu in Gisbourne and was influenced by classical music being a soprano in Anglican church choirs as was the influence in Gisborne in her era. My grandfather Te Okanga Huata (known as Aussie to many) was born in Mohaka and brought up in Ramoto, Wairoa. He was a Major in the 28th Māori Battalion and received the Military Cross for his brave feats in World War ll. He was a teacher post the war and was widely known for his oratory skills and knowledge of whakapapa. He later joined the Department of Māori Affairs and was a founding member of the Kohanga Reo movement. Dad (I called them mum and dad) was also a talented composer and writer of traditional Moteatea and waiata Māori and his favourite instrument was the ukulele. I recall joyous memories of dad giggling as he played. Anyway, to know them is to know me. I believe we are an extension of our ancestors and our family influences. I feel lucky to have been brought up with my extended family and in Hastings.

Where else have you lived?

Hastings and have toured the country and internationally through theatre and my own Māori music journey. I studied in Palmerston at the College of Modern Hairdressing and have been based in Wellington for my working life. Hairdressing is what brought me here from Palmerston and during this time I completed my Trade Certificate in Hairdressing and music studies at Whitireia Polytech. This was in Jazz and Rock styles. Māori theatre was my journey after that and eventually into self-employment, producing and directing album and show projects, and touring nationally and internationally.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I enjoy spending time with my children, husband, family and friends, walking through the bush, having café catch up time and shopping with whānau. I’ve trained in martial arts and was an active gym participant as well as doing taniko and painting recreationally. I have also always been a keen photo capturer (lol). I went to Turakina Māori Girls College and love catching up when I can with my friends that I grew up with. We live in a stunning place in Wellington called Ōtari and love going for bush walks there as well as creating, recording and rehearsing within Ōtari too.

What is your earliest musical memory?

Kapahaka through my family, my grandfather playing the ukulele and us all having a sing-a-long and my grandmother singing in her soprano voice in church. My primary school, intermediate and high schools were also very musical so I took part in school productions and the school choirs as well as a few professional productions like ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ in the Children’s Choir.

What has been your career progression?

Hairdressing to music to theatre to producing/directing to Māori Music Director whilst maintaining my artistic involvement as a singer and a performer.

Favourite quote

Too many… Our family whakatauki E rere e te Huata hopukia, e rere e te manuka tomokia

Where’s your favourite place in the world?

Aotearoa always, we have a beautiful country and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I do love the Pacific though and have been on a personal research journey following the voyage of Tākitimu waka on an annual trip. Last year to Tahiti islands, 2017 to Hawaii islands, 2016 to Samoa islands, it was great. I also have enjoyed different countries within Europe, Asia, the UK and America.

If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go?

Greece, Middle East, South America.

What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?

Hmmm not sure, drawing? It’s something I’ve always loved and could do really well when I was a child. I love getting into the zone when creating static art which also includes painting.

Which four individuals, living or dead, would you like to eat dinner with most? 

My passed, grandfather, grandmother, their siblings and our ancestors, now that would be a powerful conversation.

What are three things still left on your bucket list? 

OK not saying that I will BUT I haven’t skydived yet or bungee jumped, or been in a hot air balloon so those might be nice things to do.


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