Meri Haami

Meet Meri Haami, a PhD student studying how the Whanganui river has informed waiata composition.

Meri Haami

Ngā mihi

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa
Ko Te Āti Haunui-a-pāpārangi te iwi
Ko Ngāti Ruakā te hapū
Ko Rānana te marae
Ko Aotea te waka
Ko Whanganui te awa
Ko Ruapehu te maunga
Ko Tamaupoko te tangata
Ko Meri Haami tōku ingoa
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

What is your musical background?

In terms of my musical background, I have been singing since I was a child and this grew throughout my schooling and tertiary education. I have been in musicals; Annie, Oliver! and High School Musical 2; the only female vocalist for the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra (2009-2010); been a part of Jazz quartets, been a front woman for cover and original rock bands and sung as a backing vocalist for my colleagues and friends. I studied previously at the University of Otago towards a Bachelor of Music in Contemporary Music Performance (Voice) and then went on to complete my Bachelor of Music with Honours (Second Class, First Division) in Music Research and Contemporary Vocal Performance. During my time at Otago University, I learnt to play piano and I began my band 'Miss', which celebrates the Māori aesthetic through an electronic, rock and trap two piece set up with my partner and guitarist, Barnabas Cook and we regularly gig within the Manawatū, Whanganui and Wellington area.

What is your PhD at NZSM going to be focused on?

My PhD will focus on researching collaboratively with my hapū Ngāti Ruakā. This research will explore the relationship between Ngāti Ruakā and the marae, Rānana, the Whanganui awa and hapū waiata. This research aims to illuminate a different perspective of examining the well-being of the Whanganui Awa. This study will be contextualised within the field of ecomusicology, which is a growing field within wider ethnomusicology and will therefore, study the ways in which the Whanganui Awa has informed hapū waiata composition, spiritual meanings, performance and oral knowledge traditions.

Why did you choose this?

I chose this area of study as there are not many Māori studying Māori music, waiata or ethnomusicology - Māori voices about Māori music are vital and need to be represented. It was also important for me to study my own people by going back to the Whanganui Awa, reconnecting with my Nannies and Koro's again as well as reinforcing my own understandings of my identity as Māori through both whakapapa and tūrangawaewae. I also love this area of study - I have been performing through song and dance since I was a child and my first performance was in front of my whānau at my Nannies 60th and I remember that I sung a waiata I had learnt. Waiata has always held a special place for me.

You recently received the Te Mana o Te Awa award - can you tell us about this and what it was for?

I recently received a Te Mana o Te Awa Scholarship (valued at $10,000) and this is a part of Whanganui Iwi Initiatives and from an Whanganui iwi organisation called, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui. This scholarship is given to Whanganui iwi members undertaking tertiary study that will contribute to the health and well-being of the Whanganui Awa, iwi as well as Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui Awa recognised as legal personhood).

What inspires you?

What inspires me is seeing Māori excellence, musical excellence and overall growth within creatives and students. My whānau also inspire me, which includes all of my beautiful four older sisters and my little brother as well as my Mother, Dr. Carole Ann Fernandez and my Father, Tumanako Haami.