In the last two decades of his life Hirini’s musical interests extended to a fascination with traditional Maori instruments. Initially intrigued by instruments found only in museum glass cases, he subsequently met ethnomusicologist and performer Richard Nunns and from 1989 onwards the two regularly performed together on marae, and in schools, galleries and concerts. This partnership lead to the release of ‘Te Ku Te Whe’, a CD of original and traditional compositions for a variety of Maori flutes which has been awarded a Gold Disc Award. A second CD together with a DVD ‘Te Hekenga-a-rangi’ was released in 2003.
In 2002 Hirini was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the university of Waikato where he had been a lecturer in the Department of Maori. He was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in the 2003 New Year’s Honours just before his untimely death a week later. The death of Professor Hirini Melbourne has silenced one of the greatest voices of modern Maoridom, said Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia today. “Hirini was a young man with a wealth of knowledge in many fields. “He was able to combine Maori scholarship and academic skills to research his chosen subjects. What set him apart was a creative genius which inspired his work. Hirini’s power of expression carried his knowledge to a wide audience, so we could all share his unique insights. “Hirini is closely associated with the revival of traditional music, and the whakapapa and oral traditions that give it meaning to tangata whenua.
This is a formidable body of work. “Yet Hirini was able to crystallise his insights into simple ditties and songs about the natural world around us that even children could understand and enjoy. “One of his songs is about the case moth – te putorino a Raukatauri. As the moth emerges from its chrysalis, it chews a hole at one end – leaving a shell that Hirini likened to our traditional wind instrument. All that’s left inside is a lonely, sobbing sound, to remind us of passing years and the loss of loved ones. “How sad it is that the start of the new year should be marked by the death of this great scholar and gentleman. As his wairua takes flight, everyone who knew Hirini, his Tuhoe people in particular, are left with a tangi inside us. “No reira, e te rangatira, hoki atu ra ki o matua, tupuna o te ao kohatu.
Haere ki te wahangutanga, ka waiho iho mai o taonga korero, taonga puoru hoki hei whakamaharatanga ki a koe.” Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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