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New Music, New Collaborations, New Year for Māori Diva

Singer-songwriter Toni Huata marks the start of Māori Language Week with the launch of her first bilingual collection of dub, dance, electronica, soul and classical music at Wellington’s Te Papa Tongarewa next Sunday (1.00 pm, July 22 2012).

The 10-track ‘Hopukia’ features collaborations with two top New Zealand musicians – respected electronic musician and producer, Paddy Free of Pitch Black fame, and acclaimed composer and percussionist, Gareth Farr.

It is Huata’s fourth album but her first in two languages, Māori and English, as well as her debut in the dub and electronica genre.

‘Hopukia’ is funded by the Māori broadcasting funding agency, Te Māngai Pāho, while the Wellington launch is presented in association with the Mā Te Reo fund which supports local Māori language projects.

As well as Free, celebrated dancer Taiaroa Royal and Atamira Dance Company will join Huata on stage next Sunday while visuals for the launch extravaganza are courtesy of award-winning video artist Louise Pōtiki Bryant.

Free says the album will surprise the singer’s old fans and win her many new followers. He is honoured by the trust she has placed in him to take her music to new heights.

“I think ‘Hopukia’ breaks new ground in terms of the production styles combined with the bilingual content – there’s everything from glitchy electronica and dub to cinematic operatic songs and thumping dance floor tunes.

“It’s an incredibly stylistically varied album that manages to hold together as a cohesive flow thanks to Toni's huge talents as a vocalist.

“She’s an exceptional singer who can deliver an amazing performance across a unique range of styles … from sweet R’n’B to opera to haka. I don't know of any other vocalist who can perform so convincingly in such different genres.”

Of Ngāti Kahungunu and Rongowhakaata descent, Huata says the album is closely connected to her immediate and extended whānau. The name and concept stems from a family proverb, ‘E rere e te huata hopukia; e rere te mānuka tomokia’ – when the huata spear flies, grasp it; when the mānuka flies, enter it.

“It means to grasp or seize the moment in the heat of battle and retaliate and defend those that you love,” says the self-employed event organiser, performer, stage craft tutor, vocal coach and mother of two.

Huata says she relished the opportunity to collaborate for the first time with Free – the duo recorded ‘Hopukia’ at her Wellington home studio near Wilton’s Otari bush – and again with Farr who has created three dramatic masterpieces for the new album.

As well as collaborating on her third album, ‘Whiti’, she worked with Farr to record and perform the karanga for the Rugby World Cup 2011 and the pair were also involved in the production, ‘Māui – One Man Against the Gods’, in which Huata had the lead role of Hine.

“This album is our exploration of talent, genre and culture – there is something which will appeal to any taste.”

‘Hopukia’ is available through Ode Records (www.oderecords.co.nz) and Amplifier (www.amplifier.co.nz). One track, ‘Arise’, is also available as a free download through www.amplifier.co.nz, www.myspace.com/tonihuata and www.tonihuata.com.