Language of jazz and te reo Māori

A passion for te reo Māori inspired Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) librarian and jazz musician Lisa Davies (Kāi Tahu) has introduced te reo to all facets of her life.

  • Te Whare Wānanga or Waitaha | University of Canterbury librarian and jazz musician Lisa Davies (Kāi Tahu).


Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – Quality education

Lisa has been learning te reo for six years, motivated by a desire to reconnect with her heritage, while being able to support Maori staff and students in her role as Kaitakawaenga Ako.

“My motivations include the desire to be able to express myself fluently in my own language, but also to provide library services in te reo Māori for our ākonga Māori. I want to be able to experience all aspects of my world in te reo Māori, and I think our ākonga Māori should also be able to experience all aspects of university life in our reo. I can play a small role in helping this by providing spaces, tools and tautoko in our Māori reo as part of my library support role.

In her role, Lisa is part of a long-term collaboration at UC to create a te reo Māori version of the 7th APA referencing – the international author/date citation style.

“Currently our ākonga who submit their mahi and homework in te reo Māori must default to APA 7th or other reference styles which are all in English, as there is no formal style in te reo Māori. It would be amazing if we had an official reference style in te reo Māori so that students could maintain the mana of reo throughout our academic writing.

Lisa’s interest in making te reo more accessible also led her to combine jazz and te reo Māori. In 2019, Lisa led a group of Maori jazz musicians in a performance of translated jazz standards at the New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival. Kaupapa grew from there with Ngā Reo Tīoriori, a collective of Maori jazz musicians. Most recently the band held a celebratory performance for Matariki and in October they will perform the gala concert at the Christchurch Big Band Festival.

Lisa has also been working on a project for her UC te reo course that involves research into the traditional language and compositional style of mōteatea to be implemented in her waiata jazz translation, online here.

“I wanted to bring my two worlds together – the language of jazz and the language of te reo Māori,” says Lisa. “I love the idea that people can experience an entire gig or gig as te reo Māori, and I think the improvisatory nature of jazz lends itself very well to showcasing the beauty and fun of te reo Māori. “

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Ada J. Kenney