From the 1960s Māori voices and the Māori language were heard on radio periodically in both spoken-word and music programmes. Showbands such as the Howard Morrison Quartet, the Quin Tikis and the Maori Hi-Five rose to national and international prominence, and some of their songs became favourites among radio listeners.
Māori Programmes Section
The Māori Programmes Section of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) continued to broadcast the work of gifted and dedicated producers such as Selwyn Muru (of Ngāti Kurī) and Haare Williams (Ngāi Tūhoe and Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki) in Auckland, and Whai Ngata (Ngāti Porou) and Hāmuera Mitchell (Te Arawa) in Wellington.
Te puna wai korero
Te puna wai korero was established by Selwyn Muru in 1971 as an English-language programme that reflected the interests of Māori people. This purpose remained unchanged until the final edition was broadcast in 1996. Muru highlighted issues such as the number of Māori in prison and the concerns of social workers among urban Māori.
Whai Ngata took over as producer of Te puna wai korero in 1978. His approach covered the spectrum of Māori events and interests, from old waiata to contemporary gangs. His coverage of the occupation of Auckland’s Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) in the late 1970s and the memories of members of 28 (Maori) Battalion are outstanding examples of radio documentary. Henare te Ua produced Te puna wai korero from 1981 to 1996.
A historic turning point for Māori-language songs and their impact on the nation’s radio waves occurred in 1984, when the song ‘Poi e’ was released. It was sung by the Pātea Māori Club, with Māori-language lyrics by Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi and an arrangement by Dalvanius Prime that used catchy modern rhythms. ‘Poi e’ reached number one in the New Zealand charts and sold widely overseas, with the British magazine New Musical Express nominating it as their ‘single of the week’.
In the same period Hirini Melbourne (Ngāi Tūhoe), a multi-talented musician who wrote many Māori-language songs for children, entered an astoundingly fruitful period of his life. His songs were a taonga for Māori radio.