Tama Huata may have died, but his spirit lives on in the Waiata Māori Music Awards next month.

It has been four years since the death of Huata, of Ngāti Kahungunu, the man at the forefront of Māori performing arts, and a visionary.

In 2007, Huata launched the concept at a gala event in Palmerston North.

In 2015, his eldest daughter, Ellison Huata, took over his role as executive director.
She accepted the top job "with great honor", but also with a "heavy heart".

But to her, it was what her father would have wanted. It was important to ensure the future of the awards.

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She has been prepared for the role, working closely with her father for the past six years on the awards and other performing arts events.

"It was a very, very big loss. He could do things with his eyes closed. And that was something that I definitely learned.

She says he taught his family how to "think outside the box".

"You have to be open-minded to be able to see these things and find those opportunities for our people to continue the growth, nationally and internationally.

"It took some time, but here we are today and we're still able to achieve and deliver and to share with our people the gift of what was left behind for us," Ellison said.

The annual awards take place in September and incorporate four major events over two days, including the Māori Music Symposium, Māori Music Celebrity Breakfast, and Waiata Māori Music Awards Ceremony.

The Hastings-originated event, now in its 12th year, is growing all the time, Ellison says.

"It's definitely a milestone and it is something that is ongoing. For me, it is an honour, because it is for our people, and it's definitely is fitting that our people strive to be a part of these awards as it's for our people that we continue to do this for."

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The awards "celebrate excellence in Māori music and acknowledge and honour the keepers, teachers, promoters, creators, and performers of Māori music".

There are four awards acknowledging the career contributions of respected musicians from Māoridom: Trevor Horowaewae Maxwell - Keeper of Tradition (Kaitiaki Tikanga Pūoru); Abe Phillips - Lifetime Contribution to Māori Music (Mauriora o Te Ao Pūoru Māori); Pixie Williams - Lifetime Contribution to Māori Music (Mauriora o Te Ao Pūoru Māori); and Jarrod Huirama - Music Industry Award (Ahumahi Pūoru).

Ellison said they "represent the highest achievement in their fields from composition to performance and production".

• The Waiata Māori Music Awards will be presented at a red-carpet extravaganza ceremony at Club Hastings on Friday, September 13. Tickets are available from iTicket
The ceremony will be livestreamed on Waiata Māori Music Awards Facebook and broadcast live by Awards media partner Radio Kahungunu.

Waiata Māori Music Awards Finalists 2019

Best Māori Female Solo Artist

• Amba Holly

• Theia

• La Coco

• JaLeace

Best Māori Male Solo Artist
• Tipene
• Israel Starr
• PERE

Best Traditional Album Te Reo Māori
• Te Kākano – Te Kākano
• Grove Roots – Waka
• Maaka Fiso – Ngaro

Best Māori Pop Album
• L.A.B. – L.A.B. II
• Te Kākano – Te Kākano
• Tipene – Tautoko

Best Māori Urban Rap/Hiphop/RnB Album
•Tipene – Tautoko
• Grove Roots – Waka
• Rugged and Wylde – The King and the Chief

Best Māori Urban Roots Album
• Grove Roots – Waka
• NLC – Know Your Roots

Best Song by a Māori Artist
• Katchafire – Fyah In The Trenches
• Te Kākano – Tōrea
• L.A.B. – L.A.B. II
• RunTingz Family – Runtingz Anthem

Best Māori Songwriter
• Katchafire
• L.A.B.
• Te Kākano
• Amba Holly

Best Music Video by a Māori Artist
• Grove Roots – Aotearoa
• L.A.B. – Baby Will You Let Me
• Tipene – Nanny's House
• La Coco – Back When
• Theia – Candy