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Connecting cultures through her music.

Former Gisborne Girls' High student Taylor-Rose Terekia's te reo Maori journey has brought together two cultures through music — Maori and Korean.

Last year, Taylor went viral on TikTok — a social media site where you can upload videos for entertainment — when she translated K-pop music into te reo Māori.

Korean popular music (K-pop), is a genre of music that has become part of South Korean culture.

Taylor, 24, works as kaiwhakatairanga (marketing and communications co-ordinator) at Taki Rua Productions — a company that produces, commissions and develops theatre with a Māori voice.

She was in high school when she discovered K-pop.

“It was during the Gangnam Style era (Gangnam Style was a global hit song by K-pop singer Psy).

“Gangnam Style introduced me to Korean pop culture. I found K-pop amazing.

“It was during a time when I also performed kapa haka at Gisborne Girls' High School.

“I was inspired by how the Korean artists performed and how it didn't matter if you didn't understand their language.

“For me, kapa haka was sort of like that.”

Some people did not necessarily know and understand te reo Māori but they still loved and appreciate kapa haka, she said.

Taylor started translating K-pop songs to te reo Māori last year in lockdown.

“It was a fun idea to connect the two cultures, which were really important to me.

“At first I wasn't even sure if anyone would like it or if it would sound nice, but I posted it on TikTok and social media.

“A lot of people gave amazing feedback and said it sounded great, which motivated me to keep going.

“I wanted to translate K-pop into te reo Māori because that way I could use and practise my te reo Māori.

“I used to find it hard to use te reo Māori every day and find people to talk to in it.”

Through her social media presence she found a lot of Māori whānau didn't know te reo and connected to her Māori version of K-pop.

“This is a way for me to encourage rangatahi to embrace their language and culture and not be embarrassed or afraid to learn it.

“I guess also on the other side, I have inspired other non-Māori to learn our reo as well.

“In August I went to Auckland and performed at the Korean festival.

“It was the first time I had sung my K-pop te reo Māori song in front of Koreans and I was so nervous.

“At the same time I thought it was really important to show non-Māori that this is a part of Aotearoa . . . it was really beautiful to hear each other's cultures in unison.

“It was not just them learning te reo Māori but also Māori learning about their culture.

Taylor said some Māori whānau still experienced the same fear they did in the 1900s when speaking te reo Māori.

“Te reo Māori had a very tumultuous history. The government at the time wanted to get rid of te reo Māori and it has only been in the recent generation or two where Māori have grown vigilant.

“My grandparents were punished for speaking te reo but for a lot of Māori today it is still a real part of their lives, families and communities.

“It's only recently people have been supported and encouraged to learn te reo Māori more openly and I am one of those people.

“We have kaupapa Māori now, it's a subject in schools and our babies are growing up fluent in te reo.

“We are very lucky but we are still on a journey to help our people in recovering our language.

“I think it is something that Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori is about. It will take time to fully get our language back to life but it is happening step by step.”

Taylor said Gisborne was rich in te reo Māori which made it easy for her to learn about it and practise it.

“I feel like I was lucky to be taught in Gisborne by the teachers that I had. They know the history and they know it so intimately.

“I think if you learn te reo Māori in Gisborne, you'll definitely get hands-on knowledge of the language and its history because they go together.

“You can't learn te reo Māori without history.”

MUSICAL FUSION: Taylor-Rose Terekia performing at her show Mā Pango Māwhero in Wellington in March. Her translation of K-pop music into te reo Māori has been a hit. Picture By ROC+ Photography