Friends and collaborators Maisey Rika and Seth Haapu sit down together to talk about Haapu’s new single and video ‘New Wave’.
Maisy Rika: Seth, thank you so much for making yourself available for this kōrero. We’ve known each other for a while now, but just so the world knows, e hoa, who are you, where do you come from?
Seth Haapu: Haapu, my family name is from Tahiti. It means refuge and it’s also a village that was built originally over water on the island of Huahine in Tahiti. From those waters my ancestors travelled to the east coast of New Zealand and settled in Whangara before moving from Whangara to the West Coast, where I was born in Whanganui.
Ngā mihi nui ki a koe, e hoa, thank you so much for that. You have a very unique, beautiful, very distinguished sound, what and who are your influences? Who are the people you look up to and perhaps even set the foundations for your craft today?
My family are my greatest source of influence today. I think of my great grandfather Joe Haapu. He was a very selfless man and made music that contributed to the betterment of people. He was a very talented jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist, but he gave that gift in service of the Rātana movement, which aimed to restore the mana for Māori in the face of historical challenges. I feel very lucky to not have to look very far to find influence for my music and foundations.
There are many things that you are able to do. You can play, you can write, you can sing, but for me e hoa, it is definitely your voice that is the most powerful instrument that you’ve mastered. What other instruments do you play and who taught you?
I’ve been playing piano and guitar since I was ten. I was taught piano by a traditional teacher by the name of Jo Beard. She gave me some great foundations and technique and discipline. More recently I’ve been interested in merging technology with organic sounds. On my new song I’ve created rhythms by sampling traditional tāonga puoro, such as the poi, the pahu drum which is unique to the south pacific, and even the ocean. I really love field recordings. I love to be able to incorporate real atmospheres in music. I’ve created a sound palette that reflects my identity and the South Pacific. This foundation has informed my new song ‘New Wave’ which is out on the 25th of May.
On the 25th of this month, a waiata called ‘New Wave’ will be out. Brother, please, what inspired this waiata?
‘New Wave’ is like a karakia. It’s an expression of thanks for all that I’ve been given and all that’s to come, good and bad. For me everything’s a gift. It’s about being grateful for the ebbs and flows of life and about diving deeper into my culture and the confidence that comes from strength and identity. Musically I spent a lot of time by the sea on the West Coast over the summer and listening to the waves as they ripple and crash on the sand inspired the melodies in my song. ‘New Wave’ is also about aroha and embracing new things.
Listen on Spotify
Well, e hoa, ngā mihi ano ki a koe, we are definitely in for a treat. I know that you have been busy, writing, recording and producing. What else have you been up to?
I love working behind the scenes. It is such a privilege to be a part of other people’s creative processes. In the beginning stages of creating something for nothing. I’ve been lucky to produce, play and write for a number of talented artists such as yourself, Sons of Zion, and more recently Stan Walker who is an incredible artist and human being.
I’ve had the opportunity to extend my abilities in production by working on soundtracks for film, and all of this comes under my label, Kehua music, which means ghost, in the context of ghost writer. For me it’s about having a presence but allowing the focus to be solely on the person I’m collaborating with.
I know you’ve been busy. Busy going through the highs and lows of life, busy being inspired and creating, and also very busy enhancing your own kete of knowledge. Can you please share with us some of your dreams and aspirations for the future? Professionally? Aspirationally?
I aspire to make music that brings value. When I think of those closest to me who make music, their music brought value to the lives of others. I can only hope to live out that legacy, which I imagine could take a lifetime to achieve.
Ngā mihi nui mo ō taonga tuku iho, e hoa. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve shared today. I have one more question, we’ve done a waiata in te reo and English together, and I’ve also heard you sing ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ in te reo Māori, which is so beautiful. Your voice singing in te reo Māori is hauntingly beautiful. Could this maybe be something we might be hearing more in the future?
It’s on my heart to find more opportunities to combine our beautiful language with my passion for music, so yes, there will be more music in te reo Māori. I feel that when I do sing in our reo it has the ability to move me in a way that no other words can, so I look forward to diving in.
Listen to the full interview here.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and carry out more investigations. Or get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel when you contribute $80 or more over a year.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.