Indigenous | Te Reo Māori

Te reo Māori and Tamil unite in musical fusion

Canada-based speaker, musician, and cultural intelligence facilitator Wilbur Sargunaraj has collaborated with Māori artists to create the first Tamil and reo Māori waiata called Whanaungatanga.

Sargunaraj was invited to Iramoko marae in Whakatāne last year by Dr Pouroto Nagropo, and is where he recorded the waiata that incorporates Tamil, English, and te reo Māori.

“The basis of the song is Whanaungatanga ‘How do we come together as people with all our differences?’. How can we enter into meaningful relationships with each other and that has always been the focus of my work.”

“So the song is a mix of South Indian percussion and Māori Taonga Puoro (played by Horomona Horo) It starts off with a karakia from Pouroto, and then the Ngāti Awa Kapa Haka comes in with a powerful haka. Hearing the Tamil beats with the haka is really awe-inspiring and this fusion of Tamil and Māori is something I have always wanted to do!

Tamil is one of the world’s oldest classical languages. It originates from the Dravidian language family and is predominantly spoken in Tamil Nadu, India and parts of Sri Lanka. It boasts a rich literary tradition dating back over two millennia. Renowned for its vibrant musical heritage, Tamil culture has produced a diverse range of musical genres, including classical Carnatic music, folk songs and film music.

Sargunaraj used his experience as a cultural intelligence facilitator to bring several artists together in this collaborative effort of musical fusion, including Amba Hollie, Horomona Horo, Ngāti Awa Kapahaka, and Alien Weaponry bass guitarist Tū Edmonds. “This whole project celebrates all things Māori,” he says.

“From the recording to even the design of the cover, there were so many Māori friends involved. My friend Dani Renata did my kirituhi and she did all of the artwork for the song. It really was a privilege to be working with so many Tangata Whenua! When an outsider comes to work with an indigenous community, humility and cultural intelligence is necessary. This is important when there are so many cultures involved in a project like this.”

The release of the waiata will coincide with the launch of his new book Exploring EQ, which documents his years of cross-cultural experience, combined with a love for connecting with people from diverse backgrounds. The book launch takes place in Tāmaki Makarau on May 4th at the Time Out Bookstore where he will do an unplugged version of the song with Pouroto Ngaropo joining him.

Through his interactive CQ World Wide concert events, groundbreaking exhibitions, and workshops, Wilbur helps individuals and organizations navigate the complexities of this multicultural world by sharing heartwarming stories and valuable knowledge from his journeys.

Whanaungatanga is yet to be released as it is in the final stages of mixing and mastering; however, Sagunaraj says after the launch of his book, he will film the music video at Iramoko marae and Tāmaki Makaurau where he will be joined by Amba Holly.

“I am looking forward to filming the music video with Pouroto and the Ngāti Awa kapahaka dancers at Iramoko Marae. I will then head to Whangārei to film Tū Edmonds’s part. We hope to have the song audio launched by the end of May and the music video by June”. I am excited to share this Waiata with the people of Aotearoa.”