Singer-songwriter who created Maori viral song ’35’ wins top prize at Matariki Awards, Ngā Tohu o Matariki o te Tau

Singer-songwriter Rob Ruha has won the top prize at the sixth annual Matariki Awards.

Erica Sinclair Photography/Supplied

Singer-songwriter Rob Ruha has won the top prize at the sixth annual Matariki Awards.

The man behind viral Maori song 35 which garnered international attention and over 12 million views on TikTok has won the top prize at the sixth annual Matariki Awards, Ngā Tohu o Matariki o te Tau.

Musician and artist Rob Ruha received the award from Kiingi Tūheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero VII at a ceremony held at Te Papa Tongarewa on Tuesday evening.

Ruha’s song 35, which he wrote and performed with the rangatahi choir Ka Hao, g was number 1 on the New Zealand Top 40 Songs chart. The song celebrates Tairāwhiti and life on State Highway 35 on the east coast of the North Island from Ōpōtiki to Gisborne.

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Three years ago, Ruha helped establish Ka Hao, with the aim of solving social problems on the coast and articulating the cultural values ​​of the region.

Ruha also won the Tipuārangi (Arts and Entertainment) Award in recognition of her contributions to waiata reo Māori and her work with rangatahi.

Artists, scholars and entrepreneurs were also among the winners recognized for their achievements at the awards.

Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Professor Emeritus Dr. Whatarangi Winiata (Ngāti Raukawa) and Tā Hirini Moko Mead (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūhourangi) by Governor General Cindy Kiro, for their contributions to te reo me tikanga Maori.

Rob Ruha, the man behind the hit song, 35.

Erica Sinclair Photography/Supplied

Rob Ruha, the man behind the hit song, 35.

Whakaata Māori chief executive Shane Taurima said it was fantastic that this year’s awards could be celebrated in a way that befits its status as one of the strengths of Maramataka Māori – the Maori calendar, which begins with Matariki.

“We are honored to showcase the extraordinary achievements and contributions of these truly inspiring individuals, which is both an honor and a privilege,” he said.

Whakaata Māori Chief Executive Shane Taurima, Governor General Cindy Kiro and her partner Dr Richard Davies at the awards ceremony at Te Papa on Tuesday evening.

Provided

Whakaata Māori Chief Executive Shane Taurima, Governor General Cindy Kiro and her partner Dr Richard Davies at the awards ceremony at Te Papa on Tuesday evening.

“For Whakaata Māori to be able to celebrate these achievements in a truly tikanga Māori way and to broadcast this event live to such a stellar audience is an added blessing. These awards confirm that Maori are thriving, across the motu and around the world,” Taurima said.

The awards ceremony included performances from Troy Kingi, Pere Wihongi, Ria Hall, the Tuari Brothers, Seth Haapu and Mareikura Nathan.

Winners

  • Hiwaiterangi/Young Achievers: Atareta Milne (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāi Tahu Te Rarawa), Te Haakura Ihimaera Manley (Tainui Te Rarawa Ngāi Tahu)
  • Ururangi/Sports: Dame Lisa Carrington (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Porou)
  • Waipunarangi/Te Reo and tikanga: Hēmi Kelly (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Whāoa)
  • Tipuānuku/Education: Marcus Akuhata-Brown (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu)
  • Waitī/Health and Science: Dr. Chris Tooley (Ngati Kahungunu)
  • Waita/Business and innovation: Kale Panoho (Ngapuhi)
  • Matariki/community: Tina Ngata (Ngāti Poru) & Mana-aki Matakāoa (Ngāti Poru)

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