Ria Hall at the Spark Arena for the Silver Scrolls. Image: RNZ

Kia māia: Ria Hall on the diversity failure in New Zealand’s music industry

Before she presented the APRA Maioha Award at the Silver Scroll songwriting awards last night, 2018 winner Ria Hall (Ngāi Te Rangi) issued a challenge on representation in the New Zealand music industry to a standing ovation. Here’s what she said. 

Kia māia: it’s the act of having fortitude, resilience and bravery. Being bold. I ask the question to us all – when was the last time our collective industry executed bravery? When was the last time we were bold? I’m asking this as this is what I believe is required now more than ever. To be brave. To be bold. Kia māia. 

I’m going to cut straight to the chase. Gender imbalance across sectors and industries is something that is glaringly obvious. We hui about trying to rectify these situations, yet the status quo remains, time after time. For our industry, the disparities throughout are increasingly alarming and frustrating, from the lack of female artists on major New Zealand festivals to a lack of promoters, DJs, producers, technicians, stagehands, et cetera, et cetera, across the board. A distinct lack of diversity.

So I ask again: are we being bold? Are we being brave? 

Programming of Te reo Māori on major radio stations has never been a focus. Let me remind us all that te reo Māori cannot be attained anywhere else on Planet Earth. Its home is only here in Aotearoa. Yet the status quo is to continue pumping time, money and resource into a predominantly overseas-based market. How are we protecting, nurturing and placing value on our reo? And I overexert saying our because it belongs to us all. We should take collective responsibility. 

If we aren’t even willing to step out of the Te Wiki o te Reo Māori box, where everything reo seems to be related, that’s where it occurs on a mainstream front: E hoa mā, we’ve been sitting in this one-week box since 1979. That’s 40 years.

Another alarming figure that we all know: the last No 1 hit in te reo Māori, Poi E, was some 36 years ago, in 1983.

And you know what I’m going to say next. Are we being brave? Are we being bold? Those are only but a couple of examples I lay out on the table for us to dissect, disseminate and discuss. But if there was ever a time to fix and fill these gaping chasms in our beloved industry, it’s now. 

Collectively, we are the answer. And as we’ve seen with kaupapa such as Ihumātao, Mauna Kea, last week’s climate strike action march, curated and organised by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, there is so much power in kotahitanga.

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And I don’t say kotahitanga lightly, I mean it from serving its one sole purpose: to bring us all together. If we draw strengths from each other to change these status quos and social norms, imagine how our industry would look. We can create new norms and effect incredible change by taking collective action. Kotahitanga.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers, but the conversations to diversify have begun and will continue. I encourage us all as creators, artists, champions and adoring fans of our industry to engage and act now. So we can really create a thriving, sustainable, mana-enhancing music industry ecosystem.

So, e hoa mā – be bold, be brave, kia māia. 

Edited for brevity and clarity.


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