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Images: Record Label Launches Reo Act

Te 6 o nga ra o Mahuru 2004 / 6 September 2004
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Maori record label Mai Music is launching yet another new act as it continues to forge a reputation for quality Maori language releases.

Mana Epiha – of Nga Puhi and Waikato descent – unveiled his debut soul single, ‘Tatiana’, during Maori Language Week in July and is currently working on several new singles with an album planned for 2005. The 24-year-old is an Auckland-based reporter and presenter for Cyberworld, a programme produced for Maori Television which features the latest on technology, internet, computers and gaming.

In other Mai Music news, leading Maori singer-songwriter Whirimako Black was named last month as a finalist for Best Maori Album at the NZ Music Awards 2004 for her third album of contemporary Maori music, ‘Tangihaku’. Black was also honoured in August by Te Waka Toi, the Maori arts board of Creative New Zealand, with Te Tohu Mahi Hou – an award for new work for her involvement in the 1 Giant Leap project.

Mai Music was established in July 2001 by Ngati Whatua-owned Mai Media Limited, and is building on Mai FM’s reputation and success in pioneering the urban music genre in New Zealand. Releases to date include double platinum debut album ‘Revival’ from New Zealand’s top live reggae act, Katchafire; and the critically acclaimed ‘Trade Secrets’ by The Dubious Bros.

Mai Music general manager Victor Stent says rising star Mana Epiha is the label’s new Maori language development act. His Maori soul music track ‘Tatiana’ features Orini Kaipara on backing vocals and is dedicated to his new-born niece.

“Maori radio stations in the far North and Waikato as well as the Mai FM network added Mana’s debut single immediately to their playlists,” Mr Stent says. “He’s a very busy young man with a talent for just about everything and he’s already hard at work on his follow-up track about the hikoi, also in te reo Maori and also funded by Te Mangai Paho.”

A native speaker of Maori, Mana has been a film actor (Maori Merchant of Venice), television presenter (Marae – TVNZ), breakfast radio announcer (Ngati Hine FM) and music teacher and most recently was a journalist for national Maori language radio service Ruia Mai – also part of Mai Media Limited.

Although he has had no formal music training, he grew up in a family of musicians and plays the guitar, bass, drums and trumpet. A fan of soul, R’n’B, hip hop, reggae and kapa haka, Mana is inspired by Maori composers and singers such as Hirini Melbourne, Whirimako Black and Brannigan Kaa.

He says his debut single was inspired by his niece, Tatiana, who was born earlier this year.

“The song welcomes her into the world of the flesh, the world of light, and explains how I’m going to take care of her and how I’m going to teach her the ways of our ancestors so she’ll never get lost. To me, that’s how all our kids should be raised – as the taonga they are from the heavens.”


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