With her roots in Hawke's Bay, Ngati Kahungunu musician Toni Huata has gone on to national and international renown carrying with her a family tradition steeped in music.

Speaking from her home in Wellington this week, she said she was on the verge of releasing a new album, Te Rerenga, containing 13 tracks and accompanied by five new music videos. The release date will be announced on May 14.

She said the new songs traversed a Pacific/world feel to dance, ambient and dub, and included a Māori rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and also a song she had composed to the Hone Tuwhare poem Rain, with Māori lyrics.

"I'm really happy I was able to get the okay to do Somewhere Over The Rainbow - it's hard to get the rights for that song."


Her inspiration for her musical career came mainly from her family, particularly her grandparents with whom she lived as a child, she said.

Her grandmother Ngaro Huata (nee Rangi) was a soprano church choir singer, and her younger sister was opera trained with Kiri Te Kanawa.

Her grandfather Te Okanga (Aussie) Huata was more of an orator, and composed kapa haka as well as performing songs family members had composed, including Tutira Mae Nga Iwi, written by his brother.

And then there was her uncle Tama Huata, well known in Hawke's Bay and beyond for bringing Māori performing arts to the rest of the world via his Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre, which he set up in Hastings in 1983.

Going through school she said she was involved in choirs at Hastings Primary and Hastings Intermediate School, which led on to kapa haka when she was at Turakina Māori Girls College, before finishing her schooling at Hastings Girls High School.

"After school my diving into music was something of an evolutionary thing - I was working as a hairdresser in Palmerston North and Wellington and got involved with my family's bands before being encouraged to go to Whitirea to do a music course."

While still hairdressing she also hooked up with Jim Moriarty and his theatre group Te Rakau Hua o te Wao Tapu.

"I got to travel all over the country with that and it was great because it was Māori musical theatre and it addressed some important issues for youth and families."


That experience set her up to then go on to set up her own business, WaaHuu Creations, with her husband, which has seen her touring and performing internationally as well as nationally, including being a regular fixture at Hawke's Bay events such as Matariki and Te Matatini.

"I have been inspired by so many people in the Māori music world, including my cousins who encouraged me to pursue music as a career, which I love."

She said Hawke's Bay had a rich Māori music tradition both now, and from the past to draw on, and she always enjoyed coming back to the region to touch base with her Ngati Kahungunu connections.

To keep up to date with when Huata's next album is due for release go to the website www.tonihuata.com.