Te Kahureremoa Taumata and Anna Coddington (Photos: Supplied, Nick Paulsen; additional design by Tina Tiller)
Te Kahureremoa Taumata and Anna Coddington (Photos: Supplied, Nick Paulsen; additional design by Tina Tiller)

ĀteaMarch 10, 2022

Yet another summer of concert cancellations – so how are musicians holding up?

Te Kahureremoa Taumata and Anna Coddington (Photos: Supplied, Nick Paulsen; additional design by Tina Tiller)
Te Kahureremoa Taumata and Anna Coddington (Photos: Supplied, Nick Paulsen; additional design by Tina Tiller)

Aotearoa musicians are feeling the pinch after the latest wave of tour and concert cancellations. Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes speaks to kaiwaiata Māori about how they’re faring. 

When we’re happy, celebrating an achievement, enjoying good company, or even just feeling grateful for having breath in our lungs, we listen to music. When we’re sad, going through an unexpected breakup or experiencing loss, we turn to music for comfort. When we’re trying to improve our health, walking, running or working out, we turn up the tempo to synchronise our pulse with the beat. Music gives our experience that little extra. 

But the artists who curate this soundtrack to our lives are struggling. In what is already a tough industry to make a living, the pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works.

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Anna Coddington (Te Arawa, Tūwharetoa), singer/songwriter, composer, lauded solo artist and strong advocate for women in music, is making it work the best she can. Despite the incredibly challenging last two years, she’s still delivering musical offerings such as Mana-Wā-Hine. But her bottom line is taking a massive hit. 

“My music isn’t really party music, but I still would usually over summer do at least 10 gigs, maybe 20 gigs. As it stands, I did two gigs in September, and everything else has been cancelled.”

Anna Coddington performing at Auckland Town Hall in 2018 (Photo: Dave Simpson/WireImage via Getty Images)

In an industry based on bringing people together to dance, reflect and connect through music, Covid restrictions are taking a toll. Most artists here in NZ pay their bills through concerts and tours, but as we know, concerts have been cancelled left and right and centre. 

Te Kahureremoa Taumata (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, singer, composer, storyteller and taonga puoro practitioner based in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara (Wellington). She is also part of the storytelling duo ​Timotimo​, performing taonga puoro, karetao and waiata to primary-aged tamariki. 

Just two weeks ago, Taumata had a release show for her debut single ‘Ōrongonui’ at the New Zealand Fringe Festival in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. 

“The day of the show, people started isolating so we weren’t actually sure how many people would show up, so it got a bit freaky there for a second. We’ve worked so hard to put together this show.”

But the festival decided the show must go on, and with a limit of 100 people under the red traffic light setting, the seated and masked crowd were treated to storytelling, waiata and taonga puoro magic.

“It’s weird to perform to people wearing masks, I really rely on seeing people’s faces. It was odd at times, muffled laughs didn’t sound as loud to me on the stage,” Taumata says. 

Te Kahureremoa Taumata performing her debut single ‘Ōrongonui’ at the Fringe Festival in February (Photo: Maeve Campbell)

Stimulus packages from organisations like Creative NZ have helped ease the stress for some, but not all musicians are inclined to seek out and complete the forms. 

“A lot of gigs that were supposed to go ahead, the artists are still getting paid, but that’s only for a couple of gigs, not every single one that I’ve been involved in,” Taumata says. 

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has a $5,000 grant for self-employed individuals across the arts, culture or heritage sectors whose income has been directly affected by a move to red under the Covid-19 Protection Framework. 

Coddington says while it’s “really great” to have support available, it’s only enough to cover the income she’d usually receive from one or two festival gigs. 

“Most people have lost at least 10 gigs,” she says. 

The Covid-19 Support Payment is also available for self-employed people who have experienced at least a 40% drop in revenue.

From Tairāwhiti Arts Festival to Homegrown, tours and events fell thick and fast this summer. Artists who were excited about getting back out there got the bad news when the government drew the curtains.

“The responsibility of bringing people together in this environment, it’s hard to feel positive about doing it, about getting 100 people into the room. Even though we’re allowed to, it’s hard to feel like it’s something people will actually want to do,” Coddington says. 

And it’s a big financial risk putting on a gig, she adds, as New Zealanders are notorious for not buying tickets for homegrown talent until the last minute, if at all. 

Many musicians are extending their creative talents across the industry. After composing music for hit TV series Head High, Coddington is currently putting music together for an upcoming TV show and producing up-and-coming artist Davidda, while also looking forward to having more time to “noodle in the stood [studio]”. 

Of course, it isn’t all about the money. Live performance is often the most enjoyable part of being a creative. 

Taumata says her work feels like a cultural offering for Māori who love pūrākau and waiata. She pushes ahead with live performances because she wants to put good vibes out into the community.  

“It’s a responsibility and a community service,” she says. 

Taumata will release her anticipated debut album Acts of Service in May.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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