Rei’s passion for te reo and why more is needed in the music industry

Singer and songwriter Rei is cementing his place as one of the most prolific and forward-thinking te reo artists with his newest album Ariki.

Ariki is Rei’s first album all in te reo Māori, including 14 pop, reggae, hip hop and RnB songs. He says the album is all about arikitanga and rangatiratanga (chieftainship).

“It’s all about exploring what that means and how you can embody that in your day-to-day life,” he says.

Rei, from Ngāti Raukawa, wanted to release an album in te reo Māori because it’s the type of music he wants to see in the world.

“I also want to increase my te reo Māori exposure hours, which is an important part of learning a language, he says.

“Te reo Māori just makes me feel more like me. It’s been a grounding thing in my life. It’s been a thing that helps centre me and helps calm me and helps me feel more at home in Aotearoa.”

He says writing music in te reo is a way for him to learn new words and sentence structures. He works with a language advisor Lois McIver when writing his songs.

“I learn heaps from her. It’s pretty much like private tuition when you get down to it. I’ll basically write the songs all in te reo, then have a Zoom zui with Louis and then go through the kupu (words) and fix anything that needs fixing.”

Rei has already released four video clips for songs in Ariki, including Pōhutukawa.

“I wanted to do a song like Justin Bieber’s Mistletoe which is a tune about meeting your significant other or someone you’ve got a crush on, meeting them under the mistletoe to get a cheeky kihi (kiss) so I wanted to do an Aotearoa version.”

There’s also his collaboration with singer Olivia Foa’i, famous for singing the waiata for Moana, on the waiata Kokomea.

“It was important for me to have one song on the album that linked up with another Pasifika culture and have another Polynesian language in there because I love linguistics and stuff and seeing the relationships between languages.”

This year Rei was honoured for his mahi, winning big at the Māori Music Awards.

“I won the award for best hip hop album and best RnB album. That was a cool-as achievement.”

He says it is important that more artists create waiata in te reo.

“It’s the musicians showing that it’s just a normal thing that we have here. It’s a taonga that needs to be celebrated and put on all of these platforms, not just shut away in some corner. It should be in mainstream radio, on mainstream television and all over the place and the change is happening which is cool.”

Over the summer Rei will perform waiata from Ariki at gigs across Aotearoa in Taranaki and at Splore festival.

“I hope that people have a good summer to this album. Chuck it on your roadies. Chuck it on when they’re having a bit of a party.”

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