What happens when a leading music company asks Whangārei's Hātea Kapa Haka to translate Bohemian Rhapsody into te reo Māori?

You end up with a viral Facebook video which has more than 300,000 views and more than 3000 shares.

"They told us it would go viral, but we're shocked. Straight away it went right up. It had 1000 views within the first couple of minutes, to get it up to nearly 300,000 views and that many shares — wow," said tutor Joby Hopa yesterday.

The video — which features the group singing the te reo Māori version of the song while pushing a car down the road with internet sensation William Waiirua — came after Universal Music approached Hatea backstage at the APRA Silver Scroll Awards following the group's opening performance.


"We've got arrangement and harmonies and all of this going on so they asked us if we would be interested in translating Bohemian Rhapsody into Māori and then arrange it and learn it and then join in the video with Wiremu Waiirua," Hopa said.

In two weeks they had the song ready, in one afternoon the group learned it, the next week they were in Waiwera shooting the video, and two weeks later it was on Facebook.

"Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most iconic songs out there in the world — one of the most famous songs in the world. At karaoke you hear lots of people butcher it because it's so hard to sing.

"Even we were a little bit apprehensive because Queen is such an artist and (Freddie Mercury's) voice range is amazing and for us to try emulate that, or get anywhere near that, was going to be a challenge."

The music arrangement was conducted by David Tapene, while the lyrics were translated by his daughter Te Amohaere Morehu, Otene Hopa and Raniera Harrison.

Hopa said translating was all about finding the right words.

"You can translate word for word or you can see what the essence of the song is. So for the crew translating, it's not verbatim word for word transliteration, it's feeling what's the essence when Queen's delivering that. It was quite hard but doable."

Hopa said the video was fun to film.


"We're doing this 20, 30, 40 times and the locals there were just blown away. We had a bit on an entourage following and they loved it."

Hopa said the recognition was good for the group, Pehiaweri Marae — the group's base, and Whangārei.

"It's something to be proud of. Heaps of things are going to come out of this."
While only snippets of the te reo Māori Bohemian Rhapsody featured in the video, Hopa said the entire song had been translated.

But when will we get to hear the full version? "Watch this space," Hopa said.