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Richard Puanaki

Composer, Māori Composer


Ngāti Kahungunu

The photo above was taken with his tupuna whare (ancestral house) named Pourangahua

Richard Puanaki is a Māori composer who teaches in Wairoa, Hawkes Bay in the east of the North Island of New Zealand.

He has been a visiting lecturer at the Māori Studies Department at the University of Waikato. Much of his music is not written down, but has been recorded by many Māori groups and choirs, including Te Whetu o te Rāwhiti and the Tower New Zealand Youth Choir.

His work Ka Waiata Ki A Maria is regularly performed throughout the world.

Richard recalled how there was some resistance from conservative members of his church when he wrote this hymn. "They all wanted me to change the 'whare tangata' and replace it with 'whare atua'. This is the womb being referred to, and the more traditional or conservative among us are happier with the divinity of Jesus, hence the womb as a 'house of God'."

Ka Waiata is now a frequently-sung himene at powhiri. We sing it on our own marae. (JA)

In the 1990s a choral score was written for He Waiata, and it was performed by the New Zealand National Youth Choir on their tour of North America.

In 2007 the Schuylkill Choral Society, a renowned choir in Pennsylvania USA, obtained permission from Mr Puanaki to sing it. Their performance can be seen on YouTube.

He traveled with the Brown Joes to Rome for the Canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop. Richard was one of two who were chosen to represent the indigenous people of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

He was taught by the Brown Joes right throughout my primary schooling, so you could say that the spirit of their founder, Mary MacKillop, was the spirit I was raised in. Now that he is an adult and can look back in retrospect, there are some things he does that resonate with her little teachings. That one about seeing a need and doing something about it, is something I just do!

He was a student and is the principal (since 2003) at St Joseph’s School, Wairoa, when its 50th Jubilee was celebrated.

In 2003 he was asked by one of the Sisters (Jill McLoughlin), to write a song about Mary MacKillop, that the Sisters could sing at the Canonisation.

The strength of one song he has written (Ka Waiata) become pretty global. He doesn't find song writing that easy, but his song Mere Makiripi, was an easy composition during a Parish mission that the renowned Fr John Rea SM was conducting in Wairoa at the time.

He was told that the NZ sisters have learnt the song, they like it, and now it pretty much looks like I’ll be there at the canonisation to sing it with them!

Composed (1)

Ka Waiata Ki A Maria

for improvising choir, 2m