Richard Nunns has been described as one of New Zealand’s most remarkable musicians. A Pakeha who has become the living authority on Taonga Pūoro his journey has required a great deal of respect, perseverance and sensitivity – characteristics that inevitably emerge in the depths of his own music. He has a long history of personal commitment to researching and presenting/ performing the traditional musical instruments of the Māori, and to organising this body of knowledge into a form which is immediately understandable to people in general, particularly Māori who have lost contact with such knowledge.
Taonga Pūoro defy flashness and speed and Richard’s virtuosity comes in the form of his own brilliant consistency and creativity, managing to mould the endless textures, nuances and sounds to perfectly fit any situation he finds himself in, whilst never compromising the integrity of these sacred instruments.
Since Richard first began public performances on Taonga Pūoro, he has developed an amazing international profile, both with the diversity of his recorded work, along with performing with a wide variety of people in many differing settings and circumstances. His thorough and sensitive research has provided a wealth of information around the sounds, history and stories of these taonga, ensuring their preservation for future generations. Richard received a Queen’s Service Medal in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday honours list.
In 1994 Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns walked into a recording studio to make an album that marked the culmination of 30 years of travel, research, korero, composing and performing. The resulting CD, Te Ku Te Whe (“the woven mat of sound”) has since gone on to become pivotal to the rediscovery of sounds and practices of the Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori instruments).
Te Ku Te Whe was unrolled again in the 2006 release Te Whaiao: Te Ku Te Whe Remixed. Through its layering of digital textures and live performances, via a dream team of remixers, Te Whaiao (“daylight”) opens a new window into a space in our shared musical consciousness.
Hirini Melbourne & Richard Nunns have revived and revitalised interest in traditional Maori instruments, and made them come alive again in contemporary recordings. Without them – this knowledge would be lost forever.