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Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal

Composer, Māori Composer


Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngā Puhi

Composing and playing music is my first love. Some of my most important memories and experiences of childhood involved music. I remember placing my ear against the side of my mother’s piano as she played. I remember my first experience as a 13 year old trumpeter in our school orchestra. My first music teacher asked me to describe my music through pieces of bark glued to a piece of paper. Presenting my 'composition' to him, Father Bruce Goodman stated to me, “You are a romantic". He explained to me the theatrical structure of my work - with its rises and falls, swells, tensions and releases all in the right places.

I remember my composition teacher, Jack Body of Victoria University Music School, asking us new chums why we wanted to compose. I answered by saying that “I want to control people…” not getting my meaning out right. I meant that, in keeping with my romantic outlook, I wanted to move people (to move myself!) through my music, in the same way that I was moved and inspired by music I had heard. (I studied composition under Jack Body, Ross Harris and Professor David Farquhar, New Zealand composers working at Victoria University’s School of Music.)

During my time at Music School, my journey took an unexpected turn as my interest in my Māori identity, which had been simmering underneath for some time, suddenly swelled violently, breaking through into my waking consciousness and demanding attention. In 1984, I thrust myself into the world of Māori language learning, into the culture of my Māori ancestors. Such was the power of the spell that I immersed almost completely.

Quickening the pace was a desire to learn and be inspired by a musical style and language drawn from these shores. To that point, the centre of my musical gravity was firmly in Europe. Boulez was a particular favourite. But now I turned to study mōteatea, Māori chanted song poetry, and submerged myself in it. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend our tribal college, Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa, where there remained a number of elders who were experts in mōteatea. I was fortunate to receive instruction from them and I completed a book of mōteatea song poetry in 1994 under their guidance. (see Kāti au i konei, under Writings).

Following my time at Victoria University School of Music, I continued my study of the culture of my forebears and completed a doctorate in the Film and Theatre Department of the same university. My doctoral dissertation concerned the whare tapere, which were pā-village based ‘houses’ of entertainment, storytelling, music and dance. This project enabled me to combine my interests in composition and performing with further research into he culture and knowledge of my iwi and beyond. You can read more about this work at

Through all these experiences music has remained important to me. Today, I find myself trying to marry up all these interests into a new whole. More and more I see my interest in music, performing and research into traditional knowledge emerging into some kind of synthesis. I compose music in the following areas:

  • Music utilising western orchestral and electronic instrumentation
  • Mōteatea, traditional Māori song poetry
  • Popular music utilising the Māori language and some use of traditional Māori musical instruments (taonga pūoro)

Western orchestral and electronic instruments

Student Pieces 1. Overture Twelfth Night (1985, revised 2007) 2. He Timatanga (1988), an electronic work

Works 1. Te Arikinui (1991, revised 2006) for tenor, strings and percussion 2. Reclamations (2008) for violin and piano 3. 'Baxter Songs' (2010) for baritone and piano

In Development 1. Pride for baritone and piano (2012, for the forthcoming LATE at the Museum, Auckland Museum 5 July 2012) 2. Ārai and other mōteatea for voice and Chinese instruments (a first version performed in Beijing in 2009) 3. Four Movements for piano, strings and percussion (a first version performed in 2010) 4. Matariki for voices, taonga pūoro, digital textures and small orchestra (a first version performed in 2011)

Mōteatea 1. Te Kairuirui (1993) he waiata tangi mō Māori Marsden (A lament for Rev. Māori Marsden) 2. Tekau mā rua rangi (1994), he waiata whakanui i te taenga mai o ngā taonga pūoro ki Ōtaki. (A song commemorating the arrival of traditional musical instruments to Ōtaki in 1994 and celebrating the publication of Te Kū Te Whē, the landmark CD publication utilising traditional instruments by Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns) 3. E noho ana ahau i te koko o tōku whare (1995), he waiata tangi mō Tūkawekai Kereama. (A lament for Tūkawekai Kereama) 4. Āio (1999), a chant later used in the dance work entitled Te Kārohirohi: The Light Dances, in collaboration with Louise Pōtiki-Bryant. 5. Te Take o te rākau (2009) , also used in the dance work entitled Te Kārohirohi: The Light Dances 6. I haere nei koe (2010) , a song for the music group Reo.

Composed (24)

Baxter Songs

A setting of three poems by James K Baxter for baritone and piano., 9m 50s

Dance (from 'Four Scenes')

for piano, strings and percussion

E kore e mutu

for SATB choir

He Timatanga

for electronics


for chanting voice, taonga pūoro and orchestra


for baritone, saxophone and piano


for violin and piano, 4m

Te Arikinui

for tenor, strings and percussion, 9m

Te Kārohirohi: The Light Dances

for taonga pūoro and voice


for cello, chanting voice and orchestra