Taiwan collaboration
for Moana

New Zealand singer/song writer Moana Maniapoto recently travelled to Taiwan in search of an indigenous Taiwanese musician to collaborate with on her latest album, ONO. While in Taiwan, Maniapoto also performed alongside internationally renowned electronica musician/producer Paddy Free at the Tayuan Festival – a festival that showcases indigenous culture through music, art, food and culture. Maniapoto was assisted to travel to Taiwan by an Asia New Zealand Foundation arts grant.
Four people standing with each other in colourful clothes taking picture

Moana describes having an affinity with the indigenous tribes of Taiwan through whakapapa links and a shared experience of colonisation

What is the idea behind ONO?

ONO, which means six in Maori, is the title of an album that will extend the notion of live collaboration by producing a collection of six new songs with indigenous women. It will showcase the voices, language and culture of guest artists from countries in which our band Moana & the Tribe has performed.

These indigenous women are known for creative practice that reflects their cultural identity with passion and pride. In keeping with the themes of peace and healing, we will explore the nature of relationships found in traditional cultures.

Why did you choose an indigenous Taiwanese artist to collaborate with?

Taiwan was a natural fit because our band has played there three times now and feels a special affinity with the island, in particular its indigenous tribes. We know there is a whakapapa link between our people and we see similarities with moko. So Taiwan was definitely a place I wanted to feature on my album.

We met and saw some awesome musicians who we hope to work with. We also ate heaps – I’m always raving about the kai in Taiwan to anyone in earshot. I find the people in Taiwan very warm and friendly, I love the place.

Why do you think it is important for indigenous peoples to collaborate in projects such as ONO?

Over the years, Māori have built strong relationships with other indigenous nations through a shared experience of colonisation and commitment to language revitalization, cultural renaissance and sovereignty issues.

We as a band have welcomed artists who are Lakota Sioux (US), Sami (Norway), Amis (Taiwan), Inuk (Greenland) and more to perform onstage with us.

In 2014, Moana & the Tribe, Scottish band Breabach and indigenous Australian performers formed “Boomerang,” playing at Womad NZ, Sydney Opera House, HebCelt and events around the Commonwealth Games.

These collaborations always impact positively on audiences from a variety of different cultural backgrounds; they connect with people on a variety of levels and I think in this disconnected world that is so very important. I also believe that at their heart, all cultures share similar values and those have been submerged over the centuries.

I feel that the indigenous voice is missing in most of the discourse that's going on about important challenges we now face – environmental, climate change, care for the land, sea and each other, the spiritual dimensions, and particularly the economic lens that drives much of today’s thinking. Anything that brings people together is good. Music is a powerful tool for that.

Group of five taking a photo outside

Moana: "I feel that the indigenous voice is missing in most of the discourse that's going on about important challenges we now face."

Can you tell me about the Taiwanese artist/s you met?

There are a number of special vocalists I’ve been communicating with. I met Sereda, an artist from the Paiwan people. She has a very powerful voice and sings in a traditional vocal style. My representatives in Taiwan have also been speaking to Inka, whose voice I also adore. We saw other artists at the festival, which reiterated how Taiwan vocal styles are such a great fit for my project. Right now, my friends in Taiwan as well as the Council for Indigenous People’s in Taipei, are helping facilitate Paddy and I to return so we can record. 

What do you hope the resulting album to achieve?

Karakia is one way Māori celebrate our world-view, one in which there is constant communion between the human, spiritual and natural worlds. Through the power of an international cross-cultural artistic collaboration, we use music to connect, empower and celebrate our Māori language, but also ONO will introduce powerful and diverse voices to New Zealand audiences.

It’s a pretty ambitious project and I’ve accepted that it will take me a little longer than I thought – but, what the heck, it’s a heart thing. I’m loving the songs and the process.

band performing live on stage with blue ights

Moana performing with electronica musician Paddy Free at the Tayuan festival in Taipei

ONO will be the 6th studio album by Moana and is written in collaboration with Scotty Morrison and Paddy Free. The album has received support from Creative NZ, Te Mangai Paaho, while Asia NZ Foundation is supported the duo with their foray into Taiwan.