Moana (singer)

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Birth nameMoana Maniapoto
Also known asMoana Maniapoto-Jackson
Born (1961-06-22) 22 June 1961 (age 61)
Invercargill, New Zealand
OriginNew Zealand
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, film-maker
LabelsBlack Pearl / Sony BMG / Ode / Rhythmethod

Moana Maree Maniapoto MNZM (born 22 June 1961) is a New Zealand singer, songwriter and documentary maker.[1] Widely considered one of New Zealand's most successful indigenous acts,[2] her music is described as a fusion of traditional Māori haka, chants and taonga puoro, with contemporary soul, reggae and classical styles.[3] Moana was briefly married to New Zealand politician and radio personality Willie Jackson, during which time she was known as Moana Maniapoto-Jackson; they divorced in 2001. In 2016, Moana was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Maniapoto was born in Invercargill, New Zealand,[3] and attended St Joseph's Māori Girls' College in Napier.[4] She completed her secondary school education at McKillop College, Rotorua.[5] She is said to have paid her way through Auckland law school by singing covers in the highly competitive Auckland club circuit.[3] Maniapoto was raised Roman Catholic, with her cousin Max Mariu being the first Māori bishop. However during her college years Maniapoto began to question her Catholic beliefs, and abandoned them entirely after the birth of her children. She now considers herself a follower of traditional Māori spirituality.[6]


1986-1998: Moana and the Moahunters[edit]

In 1986, Moana debuted as a solo artist and released "Kua Makona" as a part of a campaign for the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand. The song was produced by Maui Dalvanius Prime and peaked at number 27 on the RIANZ singles chart. In 1989, Moana formed Moana and the Moahunters with Teremoana Rapley and Mina Ripia.

In 1990, Moana and the Moahunters released "Black Pearl" which peaked at number 2 on the national charts in 1991, earning Moana her first gold.[3]

In 1991, Moana and the Moahunters released "AEIOU (Akona Te Reo)" (English: Learn the Language), which combined rap with traditional Māori song. The lyrics of the single urged Māori youth to work to preserve their culture and traditions, learn about their history, and for all New Zealanders to learn the Māori language.[7] The song was nominated for several awards in 1991.[8] The band released their debut album Tahi in August 1993.[9]

The band's second album, Rua, combined pop, hip-hop and Māori music. The songs on the album dealt with themes such as spirituality and prophecy, and the album cover used traditional Māori symbols. Other songs discussed colonial issues, such as the Treaty of Waitangi, signed between the Māori people and the British government in the 1840s.[10] The group scored a gold record in New Zealand and a hit single. Moana retired the group after performing at the 1998 Vancouver Folk Festival.

Promotion of Māori culture[edit]

Moana and the Moa Hunters were well known for pioneering a distinctively Māori form of popular music, during a period when Māori language and culture was not as widely accepted or promoted as today.[7] The band had a significant influence due to their style and message to the public.[11][12] Besides their music, the group was well-known for their use of the traditional Māori haka. During concerts they projected images behind them related to the Māori people, such as the New Zealand landscape or traditional Māori Ta Moko tattooing.

Although they rap mostly in English, as most Māori youth did not speak much Māori in the early 1990s, the group's lyrics emphasise the necessity of studying their history and culture. When the group received a New Zealand Music Industry award in 1992, they accused the New Zealand radio of racism against Māori groups, whose music was categorised as "underground" and refused airtime by DJs.[12]

2002–present: Moana and the Tribe[edit]

In 2002, Moana formed the band Moana and the Tribe which consisted of a large group of musicians and performers with a passion for Māori culture. Since their formation, the band has become one of the most successful indigenous bands to emerge from New Zealand.[13]

In May 2008, Moana released Wha. She toured in 2008 and 2009 Germany, Australia, Netherlands, Turkey, New Zealand and performed at the opening of the Biennale in Venice / Italy in June 2009.[citation needed] Moana & the Tribe launched songs from their 5th album Rima in 2014 at Womad NZ.[citation needed]

In 2014, Moana and her band formed the Boomerang Collaboration with Scottish band Breabach, Shellie Morris, Casey Donovan and Djakapurra, playing concerts at Womad NZ, Sydney Opera House and HebCelt (Scotland). Rima was a finalist at the 2015 Vodafone NZ Music Awards and the song "Upokohue" was a finalist in the APRA Maioha Award. It won 2nd place in the World category at the International Songwriting Contest.[citation needed]

Other activities[edit]

Moana is one half of an award-winning film-making team led by her partner and band member Toby Mills. Their documentary work includes Guarding the Family Silver, which screened in the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival and The Russians are Coming, which played at the Sydney Opera House during the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival in 2012.[13]

She is also a regular writer for the Māori and Pacific online weekly newspaper e-tangata.[citation needed]

Moana is the presenter of the weekly current affairs television program Te Ao with Moana, which broadcasts at 8 pm every Monday on Māori Television and is currently in its third series.[14]


Moana won the grand prize at the 2003 International Songwriting Competition with her song "Moko".[15] In 2003, New Zealand Herald described Moana's music as "music of great depth and beauty".[16]

In the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours, Moana was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to Māori and music.[17] She is also a Life Time Recipient of the Toi Iho Māori Made Mark and received the 2005 Te Tohu Mahi Hou a Te Waka Toi Award from Te Waka Toi (Creative N.Z.), in recognition of her outstanding leadership and contribution to the development of new directions in Māori art. Moana received a Music Industry Award at the Maori Waiata 2008 Awards, also for her positive contribution to Māori Music.[3]


Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums, with New Zealand chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart
(as Moana and the Moahunters)
  • Released: August 1993
  • Label: Southside Records, Festival Records (D30787)
  • Format: CD, Cassette
(as Moana and the Moahunters)
  • Released: February 1998
  • Label: Tangata (TANGCD532)
  • Format: CD, Cassette
(as Moana & the Tribe)
  • Released: 2003
  • Label:
  • Format: CD
(as Moana & the Tribe)
  • Released: 2008
  • Label: Ode Records (BP001)
  • Format: CD
(as Moana & the Tribe)
  • Released: 2010
  • Label: RAJON (RRCD44)
  • Format: CD
  • Recorded in 2004 in Helen Young Studios, Auckland
(as Moana & the Tribe)
  • Released: September 2014
  • Label: Black Pearl
  • Format: DD

Compilation albums[edit]

List of compilation
Title Album details
The Best of Moana & The Tribe
(as Moana and the Moahunters)
  • Released: February 2012
  • Label: Blackpearl
  • Format: DD

Extended plays[edit]

List of EP, with New Zealand chart positions
Title Details Peak chart
Kua Makona
(as Moana)
  • Released: 1987
  • Label: Maui Records (MAUIEP 11)
  • Format: 12" LP


List of singles with selected New Zealand positions
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
as Moana
1986 "Kua Makona" 27 Kua Makona
as Moana and the Moahunters
1990 "Black Pearl" 2 Tahi
1991 "A.E.I.O.U." 31
1993 "Peace, Love and Family" / "Kua Makona" 23
"I'll Be the One" / "Rebel in Me" 39
1994 "Tahi" 9
1995 "Give It Up Now" 24 Rua
1996 "Prophecies"
1997 "Bird in a Tree"
1998 "Moko"
as Moana and the Tribe
2014 "Whole Worlds Watching " Rima
2016 "Huakirangi"
"Fire in Paradise" (featuring Skarra Mucci)


Aotearoa Music Awards[edit]

The Aotearoa Music Awards (previously known as New Zealand Music Awards (NZMA)) are an annual awards night celebrating excellence in New Zealand music and have been presented annually since 1965.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1987 Moana - "Kua Makona" Polynesian of the Year Nominated [19]
Moana Most Promising Female Won
1988 Moana Moahunters Polynesian of the Year Nominated
1989 Moana & The Moa Hunters - "Pupurutia" Polynesian of the Year Nominated
Moana Jackson Female of the Year Nominated
1992 Moana & The Moa Hunters - "A.E.I.O.U." Māori of the Year Won
Moana Jackson Female of the Year Nominated
Teremoana Rapley - Moana & The Moa Hunters/MC OJ Most Promising Female Won
Moana & The Moa Hunters - "A.E.I.O.U." Music Video of the Year Nominated
1996 Moana and The Moahunters - "Give it Up Now" Mana Māori of the Year Nominated
Moana and The Moahunters - "Akona te Reo '95" Mana Reo Nominated
1999 Moana and The Moahunters - Rua Mana Māori of the Year Won
Moana and The Moahunters - Rua Mana Reo Nominated
2008 Moana & the Tribe - Wha Māori of the Year Nominated
2015 Moana & the Tribe - Rima Māori of the Year Nominated
2016 Moana New Zealand Music Hall of Fame inductee [20]


  1. ^ Kara, Scott (31 May 2008). "Just wha enough". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  2. ^ "Moana Maniapoto | NZ Artist Directory". NZ Music Commission. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Arts Foundation : Moana Maniapoto – Biography". The Arts Foundation. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  4. ^ Bridgeman, Shelley (4 November 2007). "Singing the same song". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  5. ^ Malcolm Mulholland, "St Joseph's Maori Girls' College, Huia, Wellington, 2022, p. 234.
  6. ^ "Moana Maniapoto: Losing my religion". 22 April 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b Sheehan, Maree (2 February 2016). "Mana Wahine: Māori Women in Music". Te Kaharoa. 9 (1). doi:10.24135/tekaharoa.v9i1.12. ISSN 1178-6035. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  8. ^ Maxwell, Ian. "Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 259-279. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  9. ^ "Moana and the Tribe – New Zealand Musicians & Bands". Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  10. ^ Anne-Marie de Bruin. "Moana and the Maori Culture". Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  11. ^ "Tangata Records - Moana". Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  12. ^ a b Mitchell, Tony. "Kia Kaha! (Be Strong!): Maori and Pacific Islander Hip-hop in Aotearoa-New Zealand." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 280-305. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  13. ^ a b "Moana Maniapoto – Profile". Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Te Ao with Moana". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  15. ^ "ISC IS Pleased to announce the 2003 winners". International Songwriting Competition. Archived from the original on 13 December 2005. Retrieved 17 December 2003.
  16. ^ Reid, Graham (12 September 2003). "Moana: Toru". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  17. ^ "Queen's Birthday honours list 2004". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  18. ^ a b c "MOANA & THE MOAHUNTERS Discography". Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  19. ^ "Aotearoa Music Awards". Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  20. ^ "HOME INDUCTEES". Retrieved 16 August 2021.

External links[edit]