Entertainment | Waiata Anthems

‘Te reo has a depth and multi-levels of meaning that English does not have’ - The Black Seeds’ Barnaby Weir

The Black Seeds’ Barnaby Weir in the music video for the group's 2005 song 'So True' which has been re-recorded in te reo Māori for Waiata Anthems. Source / YouTube

The Black Seeds have re-recorded their much-loved song ‘So True’ in te reo Māori for Waiata Anthems. Lead singer Barnaby Weir says it’s a great way for the group’s non-te reo speaking fans to get involved in the language.

Question: Barnaby, this is your second time being part of the Waiata Anthems kaupapa - having previously released Fly My Pretties Family Tree in te reo. What inspired you to translate and release a second waiata?

Answer: It was a real honour to be asked again to be a part of Waiata Anthems, this time with an altogether different song by The Black Seeds. So True is probably our most loved and well-known song, so it makes total sense to translate and deliver something much more familiar in te reo Māori for people to sing along to. Actually, we had been in discussion about doing this for some time. Everyone in the band was right behind the idea and I think that by translating a known Kiwi classic you can encourage non-te reo speaking fans to get involved and learn something using the song as the waka. It’s meaningful.

Q: It’s been almost 20 years since The Black Seeds released So True, and it’s still an iconic Kiwi love song. Has translating it into te reo changed the message of the song? If so, how?

A: With the translation, we asked to keep very much to what the English lyrics were saying originally. It’s predominantly a romantic love song with a sincere heart to it, for your partner but also some of the lyrics relate to anyone that you hold close to love dearly, friends and family too. So the translation was aimed with this in mind but actually the result saw another broader level of perspective on the meaning of the original lyrics. This was really interesting, I don’t think you can translate a piece of creative writing literally in te reo Māori, and that is special. Te reo Māori has a depth and multi-levels of meaning that straightforward English does not have.

Q: Out of all the chart-topping hits from The Black Seeds - why So True for this year’s Waiata Anthems?

A: So true Koia Ko koe is a singalong classic. It’s melodic and catchy and brings with it so many good memories for people. That’s why it’s a perfect choice for Waiata Anthems. It’s a fun and lighter, a familiar track that feels good and sounds good in te reo Māori. And these attributes make it easier to learn and enjoy in te reo Māori too.

Q: Was there a sense of injecting a new life into a historical track for you in undertaking this process?

A: There is definitely a sense that by translating and performing the track in te reo Māori it adds another level or dimension and freshness to it. Sure, it sparks interest again too but our objectives and aims around the release are rooted in the Waiata Anthems kaupapa and we really respect that and hope that everyone will enjoy and see that this is not a token offering. Everything we did in the studio was about making sure the song stayed true to the original, as if this te reo version had also been around 20 years.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of the process for you?

A: This experience, second time round and on a lighter song, felt a lot smoother. The challenging part is making sure I get the pronunciation correct and the rhythm flowing for the recording. Remember, I’m still new to this and very much a beginner with te reo Māori. Also, you are performing on camera the whole time so, although I’m fairly relaxed with that, you still need to be very focused about how you are presenting yourself and at the same time relaxed and spontaneous.

Q: What is your hope for this waiata once it’s released?

A: The Black Seeds just hope that it might inspire people to sing along and gain more knowledge and understanding of te reo Māori. I hope that people will listen and have fun with the song, and continue to make Koia Ko Koe So True a special part of their lives in both languages.

Q: What’s next for you/The Black Seeds?

A: The Black Seeds are planning a busy summer in Aotearoa gigs-wise and we’re about to start jamming some new material for a new album in the medium term. We also celebrate 20 years of our album On The Sun next year.