Season 1, Episode 1

Sounds of the Moana

Sounds of the Navigators

What is the indigenous sound of Moana-Nui-ā-Kiwa (Oceania)? What has been lost and gained over the course of history, and how can the musical identity of the great Moana be kept alive today? Explore these questions, and more, in this two-part series hosted by Tau’ili’ili Alpha Maiava.

This project was made in partnership with the Pacific Peoples music community, cultural advisors and knowledge holders.

Sounds of the Moana has won Gold (the highest category award) at the prestigious New York Festivals Radio Awards (NYFRA).

From personal diaries, we know that Christian missionaries in the Pacific quickly identified indigenous music and singing as something that needed amendment in order to bring the native population into alignment with their new God:

“… [t]he tunes composed in the major key are made completely minor, and such is the difference that sometimes their singing reminds me of some of our solemn dirges sung at funerals etc … I believe that all this will be done away in time”.

So wrote the missionary Reverend William Woon, shortly after his arrival in Tonga in 1830, in response to his colleagues’ awkward attempts at teaching church hymns to the locals.

But what was it about these sounds that was deemed unfit for the human soul? And how much of the original ‘Moana’ sound still exists today? In this episode we invite you to explore the original, indigenous sound of the Moana through special archival recordings and humankind’s first instrument — the voice. We ask:

  • What were the original sounds and music of the Moana, and what was their role in the daily lives of the Moana’s citizens?
  • What was the impact of Christianity on the sonic traditions of Tagata Moana (the people of the Pacific)?
  • What, if any, traditional sound and music still exists today?

The original sound and music-making unique to the great Moana may have taken a detour, but it is not lost forever. Join host Tau’ili’ili Alpha Maiava as he holds talanoa (discussions) with the practitioners, knowledge-holders, and indigenous scholars who are keeping the ‘sounds of the navigators’ alive today.

Host: Tau’ili’ili Alpha Maiava
Guests: Hūfanga-He-Ako-Moe-Lotu Dr. ‘Okusitino Mahina, Rita Seumanutafa, Leuga Ape Taua’ana Ata Sofara, Ma’ara Maeva, Anonymouz (aka Faiumu Matthew Salapu)

To listen to Episode 2: The Origin of Sounds, please click here

For additional resources, please click here.

Production team
Producers: Tau’ili’ili Alpha Maiava, Sophie Yana Wilson
Sound Engineered by Phil Brownlee
Research: Tau’ili’ili Alpha Maiava
Script Advisor: Kirsten Johnstone
Voice Actor: Roger Smith
Production Assistance: Roger Smith, Kelly Mata, Nina Lesperance, Jonathan Engle, Alpana Chovhan
Executive Producers: Diana Marsh, Tiumalu Noma Sio-Faiumu, Leoné Venter

Special thanks to
Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision
Archive of Māori & Pacific Sound, The University of Auckland
Les Anderson from the McPherson Natural History Unit Sound Archive
Faiumu Matthew Salapu
RNZ Concert
Cover Art: Kennedy Kioa Toi Faimanifo of Manatoa Productions

This podcast is supported by funding from Creative New Zealand.



© Copyright Centre for New Zealand Music Trust


Tau’ili’ili Alpha Maiava
Alpha is an international entertainer who moved back to NZ in 2019. He is the recipient of 3 international music awards and has appeared in international films and TV commercials. He has hosted TV shows aimed at the Pacific community in NZ and abroad and was a host for Radio Samoa and 531pi Pacific Breakfast. Pacific music history is a passion of Alpha’s, he researches and curates many of the interviewees for his Radio shows. Alpha is a well-known MC in the entertainment and corporate world. He has hosted many events as well as the Pacific Music Awards and has appeared in online and traditional media shows in NZ and abroad. He is a highly-accomplished integrated marketing and business development communication professional with a 20-year career in the Middle East and throughout Australasia. Being multilingual he is at ease and respectful in complex cultural spaces with community, industry, and cultural leaders.


Hūfanga-He-Ako-Moe-Lotu Dr. ‘Okusitino Mahina
Born in the Tongan village of Tefisi on the island of Vava’u, Hūfanga-He-Ako-Moe-Lotu Dr ‘Okusitino Mahina was the only one of 11 children in his family to attend university. He graduated from Auckland University with a BA in anthropology and sociology as well as a masters degree in social anthropology with first-class honours, and then completed his PhD in Pacific history at the Australian National University in Canberra.

A keen student of Western philosophy, Dr Mahina says he created his Pacific-driven time-space theory as a way of making sense of the world from an indigenous Pasifika worldview. He continues to develop his theory and has published extensively, while a number of masters and PhD students in New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands and the United States have embraced the theory and applied it to their various disciplines.

“The ta-va, time-space theory is so general and formal that it enters into all fields of inquiry, within and across nature, mind and society,” he says.

Dr Mahina lectured in social work in 1993 and 1994 before moving to Auckland University where he taught Pacific Political Economy and Pacific Arts in Anthropology. As well as supervising several Pacific-related theses, he has lead projects on Tongan research, and curriculum development relating to Maori and Pasifika performing arts. He has also written and edited several projects, including a volume in a series on Pacific leadership, a collection of his political, educational, artistic and philosophical essays, speeches and writings, and a book of his poems in both Tongan and English.

Dr Mahina, who was awarded the Creative NZ Pasifika Heritage Award 2007, is also an accomplished performer of the traditional Tongan instrument, the fangufangu, a bamboo pipe played by blowing through a nostril.


Rita Seumanutafa
Ethnomusicologist, Composer and Music Director.

Rita’s musical service to her Samoan community in South Auckland began at the age of 10 years old when she became piano accompanist for her EFKS church choir, working alongside her father. Directing and teaching the choir a few years later opened her eyes to the power of music in developing cultural awareness and community engagement. Since immigrating to Melbourne in 2003, Rita has founded creative arts organisation Pacific Island Creative Arts Australia Inc. (PICAA) as a platform for Pasefika creative arts and artists. She also leads various community choirs including The Melbourne Samoan Choir, and Pasefika Vitoria Choir. A classically-trained pipe organist, Rita is also an APRA-nominated composer (2019), and composed the music for Australia’s very first Pacific Island musical ‘ReHavaiki’ in 2017. She is currently completing a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music, focusing on musical traditions of Samoans in diaspora.


Leuga Ape Taua’ana Ata Sofara
Leuga Ape Taua’ana Ata Sofara is a Samoan matai, a history teacher, and a guardian of Gagana Samoa, the Samoan language. Leuga is very well known Samoan orator and knowledge holder in Samoan oral pre-christian history. He is tutor for advance Samoan matai-system language and cultural advisor for ACC.


Ma’ara Maeva
Ma`ara Maeva is a Learning Specialist at Auckland War Memorial Museum Auckland New Zealand where he develops and delivers schools and community programs based on material culture. He is a descendant of the supreme god Io-te-atua-nui-manomano-tini and is a knowledge holder in east Polynesian cultures. He is of Mauke Cook Islands parentage and is steeped in the cultural traditions and knowledge of his heritage. He holds a Master’s degree in archaeology from the University of Auckland


Anonymouz (aka Faiumu Matthew Salapu)
Of Sāmoan descent, Sound, Music & Video Producer Anonymouz (aka Faiumu Matthew Salapu)’s work spans traditional music composition and production through to experimental avant-garde sound art. His thorough approach to research, engagement and innovative application means his skills are in high demand in both the traditional and wider creative industries.

In 2013, Anonymouz was appointed Music Director for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s “APO Remix” programme and in 2014, he was commissioned by NZ’s flagship Pacific Radio stations Radio 531 PI & NIU FM to create their rebranded imaging music which still plays every four minutes to this day. In 2016, Anonymouz was one of 20 Pacific artists who attended the 2016 Festival of Pacific Arts in Guåhan (Guam) as part of the Aotearoa delegation, premiering an original 20 minute audio soundscape work at the Guam Museum created exclusively out of audio samples recorded around the island. The work premiered at the Guam Museum as part of the 2016 Festival of Pacific Arts, at the Auckland Art Gallery, Mangere Arts Centre and at Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, Wellington.

In 2018, Anonymouz was commissioned by the internationally acclaimed, leading Pacific Dance company ‘Black Grace’ to create a 30 minute sound work which premiered as part of the inaugural Guerilla collection at the ASB Waterfront Theatre. Anonymouz was also one of three Pacific composers commissioned to respond to the work of Len Lye – Tusalava. The work was presented at the Mangere Arts Centre in 2014 along with Len Lye’s film and featured again in 2018 as part of Te Papa’s Len Lye at ‘Toi Art’.

In addition to his work in the music industry, Anonymouz’s skills have also been commissioned for major projects for many other non-profit, corporate and creative institutions such as Auckland Museum, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Theatre Company, Auckland Libraries, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, Royal NZ Ballet, Aganu’u Fa’asāmoa 101, PIPA, Black Grace, DB Breweries, Vodafone, Mackie Research, Massey University and many others. In 2015 he was appointed by Auckland City Council to oversee the production of permanent soundscapes built into the exterior roof soffit of the new Glen Innes Music and Arts centre facility “Te Oro”. Unveiled a year later, it was the first time a non-physical public art work had been commissioned by a local authority in New Zealand.