Moana Maniapoto has been described by US magazine, The Beat, as a “truly inspiring performing and recording artist”. She has consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music in both her recordings and live performances, fusing taonga puoro, haka, chants with soul, reggae and classical music “to produce her own blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either”.
Moana draws on her identity as a Maori woman to write songs that still manage to resonate with global audiences. She is the recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a Life Time Recipient of the Toi Iho Maori Made Mark and received the 2005 Te Tohu Mahi Hou a Te Waka Toi Award from Te Waka (Creative New Zealand), in recognition of outstanding leadership and contribution to the development of new directions in Maori art.
Moana and Toby are good friends of ours and have recently become parents to a beautiful daughter, Manawanui. Here's Moana's story...
Some people live life as if they are long distance runners. They pace themselves, keep to an even keel and move steadily towards the final flag.
Then there are the sprinters; the rock-stars of track and field. They spring out of the blocks and go hell-for-leather in a short furious explosion that leaves them gasping for air.
Finally, there are the rest of us.
We are in no shape for competition. We have no strategy and diddly-squat experience. We wing it on passion and adrenaline. We find ourselves propelled towards the finishing line when we didn’t even know we were still in the race.
That’s how I felt about getting pregnant in my mid 40s.
My son was about to turn 18 in October. I was due to give birth to a baby girl on October 24. This would be a first child for my partner Toby. I’d just wrapped up a month long tour of Europe with my band Moana & the Tribe and was easing myself out of circulation. In fact, I was feeling a Dalai Lama moment coming on. The next 10 weeks would provide me with a rare opportunity to think and focus on a bit of creative and strategic planning.
At 30 weeks, our baby had other ideas. I was admitted to hospital in the hope that they could hold back the birth. At 30 weeks, the lungs are the most at risk. So I was given steroids to strengthen the baby's lungs. I was resigned to simply lying around in a hospital bed and being waited on hand and foot.
So far, so good. Except for the small matter of my impending gig. Naturally, thinking it was 'all about me', I talked about canceling.
“The show must go on,” my backing vocalists said.
“Er,” said I. “Without me? Without the lead singer?!”
“Yep,” chorused Amiria and Trina. “We'll do your bits! ”
“Right. Okay. Choice.” I think they even said “No sweat”.
Off they went to the gig. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall watching them break the news to the boys in the band that it was now The Tribe. Forget the Moana bit...
So off I went to star in my OWN show.
The pills they gave me to keep things at bay? Didn't work. The Panadol to help with the pain of contractions? Didn’t even touch the sides. And life didn't get any better when a doctor arrived with her huge torch (think big yellow thing appropriate for caving expedition), then yelled “Oh my god, I can see the head!” and took off behind the curtains.
Great. The doctor's having a meltdown, I thought.
Next minute, I am hurtling down the corridor, propelled into the walls - thank you very much - and having to listen to the nurse and receptionist argue over whether the theatre and ‘SWAT team’ will be ready in time. I was in the theatre for 30 minutes. Things were so speedy my midwife missed it and my partner Toby made it by 15 minutes. Just 5 minutes behind my specialist. Talk about a last minute dash!
Our tiny girl weighed in at 3lb 2oz. She is so small!
Manawa spent the first few days of her life hooked up to a whole bunch of drips and wires - which she would try to pull off. If you have never seen a doctor try to insert a needle into the vein of a hand that tiny, you are lucky. It's also hard not to have a meltdown when the monitor alarms that your baby is hooked up to, ring.
“What's happening there?” I'd ask.
“She's stopped breathing,” the nurses would reply.
“It's normal in premature babies - don't worry about it,” the nurse would say. “We give them a bit of time to snap out of it and self correct. If they're too slow, we just give them a little shake and off they go again.”
Right. Good to know.
Having said all that, I'm pleased to report that Miss Manawa is feisty and getting fitter each day. In fact, we ended up calling her Manawanui (Manawa means ‘heart’, Nui means ‘big’). She’s on a serious carbo-loading diet at the moment and learning to regulate her own temperature. We expect her to be in hospital until she is at 38 weeks - and that’s okay with us. These tiny babies require extra special care. I can say that the nurses and staff up at NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Auckland Hospital) are just simply awesome.
Of course, you barely get 48 hours in a hospital after giving birth, despite delivering a premature baby that needs intensive 24 hour care. I was turfed out pretty quickly. It didn't help that my bounce back time was so quick. Trina reckoned I was too much like Angelina Jolie. I needed to look a bit more tragic and pathetic to catch a sympathy vote. Toby has Manawanui’s life worked out. At puberty, he insists we will be ‘moving to a remote area of Scotland where a panic room will be installed and our daughter will be locked up and kept out of sight from boys’. Glad he is thinking ahead.
Miss Manawa leads the newest members of Moana & the Tribe. These include Te Ahu (daughter of haka man Te Hira) and Kurawaka (daughter of haka man Scottie). These girls are Leos, born during the Olympic Games. All babies will be issued with passports and baby tees inscribed 'Roadie in Training'.
When Manawa is well enough, we will be having a Homecoming Party for her. We will toast to her warrior spirit with that beautiful big bottle of Boizel that Ro and Kevin sent to us. Thank you both so much!