Robert Ruha (Te Whanau a Apanui/Ngati Porou) has been composing waiata since he was 12 years old. Many of those waiata have been performed by kapa haka teams all over Aotearoa (New Zealand) and abroad. As a performer, he has contributed to the realm of Maori Performing Arts since he was a child.
He is recognized as an exponent of Kapa Haka and has judged the quality of this art form at regional, national and international kapa haka competitions for the past 11 years. A recognized tribal composer; Robert has also judged the Te Rangitawaea Festival’s ‘Nati Awards’ for Best Original Music Compositions, and the recently revived ‘Nga Manu Waiata’ competition that promotes the development of Ngati Porou composers and future recording artists. He has also been a judge for the prestigious APRA Silver Scrolls Maioha Award.
On the 28th of March 2014, Rob released his debut EP. The name of the EP is Tiki Tapu (the sacred ta-moko implement). It marks a period of time from when the last recorded male ancestors of his family wore facial moko (in the 1800’s) to the present. This sets the time-line for which the concepts of the compositions, including the liberation of cultural expressions of identity, aroha, kotahitanga, spiritual belief systems and leadership solidarity, are rooted. Moko also represents a symbol of permanence and a commitment to making a particular way of life enduring.
The Tiki Tapu EP asks us to hold fast to our Maoritanga in the face of immense societal changes. “Naturally, Te Reo Maori features greatly in this work to reflect my mother tongue, evoking the innate rise and fall of the tones most familiar to me. I have also begun to venture into bi-lingual compositions. It’s a considered fusion, capturing a natural synergy between the two languages – a practice modelled to me by the late Tuini Ngawai: the epitome of composition prowess within my Iwi territory.”
Each instrument, key stroke, percussion stab and musical arrangement has been intentionally crafted to sculpt musical themes that accent the layers of narratives surrounding the concepts within each track of the Tiki Tapu EP. Rob’s first single off the new EP, Ponga ra, was previously released on Waitangi Day, and the bi-lingual track is a popular request on Iwi radio.