Te Kumeroa Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi (Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare, Ngāti Porou), known affectionately as Ngoi, was one of five children born 1921 in Tokomaru Bay. Her father, Hōri Ngāwai, was a labourer and minister of the Ringatū Church and an advocate of the Kotahitanga movement, which Ngoi later supported. While she is best known for co-writing hits with high-profile Māori artists Prince Tui Teka and Dalvanius Prime, Ngoi composed many widely beloved waiata including ‘Kia Kaha Ngā Iwi’, ‘Ka Noho Au,’ and ‘Whakarongo.’ She is also deeply respected across the East Coast community as a leader, spiritual bastion, and youth advocate, and is a profound influence on many current Māori songwriters.
It was only natural that Ngoi would follow in the footsteps of her aunt Tuini Ngāwai, being heavily influenced in performance, composition, and leadership. Ngoi became a member and leader of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū kapa haka who would travel around the country performing and entertaining guests while assisting Sir Apirana Ngata’s recruiting efforts.
Ngoi was integral to reo Māori education, having co-founded Te Ataarangi alongside Katerina Mataira, a method of learning and teaching the reo in homes and on marae that still operates today. Alongside forming Aotearoa Moana Nui a Kiwa Weavers, a kaupapa to help foster and preserve traditional weaving techniques, Ngoi was also a foundation member of the Council for Māori and South Pacific Arts, serving until her death.
This year marks 40 years since the conception of ‘Poi E’, New Zealand’s unofficial anthem written by Ngoi and produced by Dalvanius Prime for Pātea Māori Club. This was first time te reo was used in a modern context with 80’s synth and rollicking bass. ‘Poi E’ was released in 1984 and would top the charts for a month outselling all international artists. It has been in the Top 10 every decade since it’s release and is respected as a breakthrough moment for contemporary waiata.
Ngoi’s influence as a songwriter is far-reaching not only in writing beautiful, popular waiata herself, but in the way she collaborated, motivated, and encouraged others to write in te reo Māori – from kapa haka works, to chart topping hits, to compositions for royal visits. Without Ngoi, the landscape of modern songwriting and popular culture in Aotearoa would be very different.
I whaiwhai atu a Te Kumeroa Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi (he uri nō Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare, Ngāti Porou) i ngā tapuwae o tōna koka. Ko te ingoa kārangaranga i mōhiotia whānuitia e te ao ko Ngoi. He wahine whai i ngā mahi i takahia e Tuini, pērā i te tito waiata, ngā mahi ki te ao mātauranga me te ārahi i tōna iwi anō hoki. He rongonui a Ngoi mō te mahi ngātahi ki ngā Kaiwaiata ōrongonui e kiia nei ko Prince Tui Teka rāua ko Dalvanius Prime. Inā hoki te huhua o ngā waiata kua titoa e Ngoi pēnei ia ‘Kia Kaha Ngā Iwi,’ ‘Ka Noho Au,’ me ‘Whakarongo.’ He wahine marae, he wahine whai mana a Ngoi. Inā hoki te nui o te whakaute mō tōna rangatiratanga, tōna wairuatanga me āna mahi ārahi i te hunga rangatahi. He nui rawa ōna awenga ki runga i ngā Kaitito Waiata Māori i tōna wā, ā, tae noa mai ki ēnei rā.
Ka whakanui tēnei tau i te whā tekau tau nō te whānautanga mai o te waiata ‘Poi E.’ Nā, ki te tirohanga o ētahi, koinei te waiata o te motu ki Aotearoa, ā, nā Ngoi te waiata nei i tito. Nā Dalvanius Prime o te Pātea Māori Club te waiata i whakaputa. Nō te pāohotanga tuatahi o te waiata ‘Poi E’ i noho te waiata nei ki te tūranga tuatahi ki ngā rarangi mātaamua, rarangi waiata mō te marama kotahi. He nui ake ngā nama o te waiata nei, tēnā i ngā waiata rongonui o te ao i taua wā. Inā hoki te nui o ngā wā kua noho te waiata nei ki te rarangi matua, rarangi tekau.
He rangiwhāwhā ngā awenga o Ngoi ki ngā Kaitito Waiata, kaua ki ngā waahi tito waiata rongonui anake, engari ko tōna tāera, he akiaki, he whakakipakipa i ngā Kaitito Waiata ki te tuhi ki Te Reo Māori. – Mai i āna mahi Kapa Haka, ki ngā waiata i whai waahi atu ki ngā rarangi mātaamua ki te ao puoro, tae noa ki ōna titonga mō te taenga mai a Te Kāhui Ariki. Hōrapa whānui āna mahi.