Entertainment | Music

Welsh and Māori languages use music as a tool for revitalisation

Māori musicians have banded together with two Welsh producers to give advice and support in the revitalisation of the Welsh language.

Music holds a pivotal role in the revitalisation of a language, with many using music as a way of teaching, learning and understanding how a language is spoken.

As a part of the 2023 Aotearoa Music Producer Series mix panel, discussions of indigenous language and revitalisation through music were at the top of the agenda for those in attendance.

Māori punk rock musician Wairehu Grant from Ngāti Maniapoto is one of the musicians in the conversation, which he finds quite fitting following his invitation to Wales to perform at an international music festival, FOCUS Wales.

“It’s a good continuation of what I’ve been looking at in my research, and what Half/Time have been doing as a band. It feels great and really excited,” Grant says.

While in Wales Grant says he heard stories of hardship experienced by parents and grandparents that their youth can resonate with.

Resonates with Māori experience

“They were coming up through a time where their parents were facing a lot of the same prejudice in schools that our parents and grandparents faced. So I feel like interacting with those people in that space a lot more... It just feels as if you are able to uplift people and make them feel like you don’t have to slot in and play whatever music that’s going to get you airtime. You should just commit to what you want to do,” he says.

Also included in the panel discussion were two award-winning Welsh music producers David Wrench and New Zealand resident Greg Haver.

Both Haver and Wrench have worked with many artists through the years including Franck Ocean, The Pretenders, Maniac Street Preachers and others.

These Welsh music producers like how Māori use music as a platform to promote the language and use music as a learning tool.

Standing together

“Those cultural exchanges have always been important but, especially when you have two countries in a similar position with the use of the language, but also have pushback within the country as well against it. It’s important for the creative sector to stand together and move the use of the language forward,” Haver says.

“I think music really is like all art, intrinsic to a language living and thriving, and not just being a museum piece but being something that people can really engage with as a living entity,” Wrench says.

“If you find you are coming up against roadblocks in creating music in your own language, you should question who is putting those roadblocks there and whether those people are really necessary. For us, our drummer Kiara and I are both recording engineers so, if we can’t find a place to record, we will just do it ourselves. That’s why punk has always appealed to me, so I just encourage people to do that more.”