Māori punk rocker shares indigenous struggles through waiata

A Waikato PhD student is fusing Māori with a unique genre of music and is heading overseas to Wales to share his art form.

PhD student and musician Wairehu Grant (Ngāti Maniapoto), has his passion invested in the niche genre of punk rock.

Grant, who has played in bands since his teens and started his own Māori punk rock band Half/Time, is also teaching film studies at Waikato University and is a sound engineer at local venues.

Grant said his music was a reflection of his identity and heritage: “The music of Half/Time has been a vehicle for me to engage with both my own Māori identity and to position myself within the wider canon of te ao Māori.”

Grant said he created the music for himself but found it stirred something within others who listened to his songs.

“Growing up, these connections often felt disjointed for many reasons. The name Half/Time itself is a play on words - half-caste - a term I was very familiar with growing up.”

Grant said he had found his music resonated with Māori and he hoped to continue writing music that helped agitate and ignite those conversations among Māori and other indigenous peoples about the struggles they faced.

Grant's music was greatly influenced by the Pōneke band Fantails, helping him in his journey of cultural rediscovery.

“I feel that if this music had the capacity to do this for us, then maybe there’s something there for other Māori who are finding their footing in alternative music scenes.”

'Keep on making music'

Grant is looking to attend FOCUS Wales 2023, a festival in Wrexham, North Wales, and is fundraising to cover travel costs for his group to make it to the event.

“We’re also hoping to do a bit of a UK tour while we’re over there.”

Grant's subject for his PhD is "the intersecting values and practices of Māori creatives and punk culture, which is encompassing music, visual art, writing and community organisation".

He said the real challenge of his studies so far was the Covid-19 pandemic period when most educational institutions struggled.

“While there was a lot of surface-level acknowledgement of how difficult things were for everybody involved, there wasn’t a lot of structural response that reflected genuine care for students or staff at all levels."

Grant said his goal is to keep on making music and art while being able to support himself at the same time.

“Travelling internationally to play music is something that’s really exciting so I think going over to Wales will be a good chance to explore that, give it a go, and see whether I can see myself doing that in future.”

“It’s definitely been a childhood dream of mine, and at the moment I’ve never even left Aotearoa full stop.”

Grant will be starting a crowdfunding effort on Boosted NZ in the next couple weeks to help fund his travel to Wales.