After many long and sleepless hours in recording and editing it in locked-down homes around the globe, the Maori song ‘To Te Ao Nei’ is taking Cook Islands culture to the world.
The song – translated by Enis George-Ngatokorua from the global hit ‘We Are The World’ – was released just five days ago.
By yesterday, it had reached more than 142,000 people on Facebook and TikTok – and the numbers are rising.
To Te Ao Nei was first performed at the 2018/19 Mangaia Tri Nation Series, the last song at the closing ceremony.
Since then, says George-Ngatokorua, she has been waiting for the “right time” to take the song to a world audience; with the coronavirus pandemic and people’s lives in turmoil, “the timing was now”.
“We were extremely lucky and fortunate to have the right people at the right time; singers used their own mobile phones to film their parts, and left it to the pros to do their work,” she says.
“The thought of our Cook Islands singers showing our people their love and support for them, was beautiful.”
Singers from New Zealand, Australia and Rarotonga – including Katu Teiti, Tuaine Papatua, TZar William, Dee Snow, Noo Papatua, Tumai Numanga and KI Beats – recorded their vocals and videos on smart phones.
Then video editor Thomas Peyroux pieced them together into United Kūkis, “a shared collaboration, all credits to the team and the artists”.
George-Ngatokorua was born and raised on the island of Mangaia by her grandparents Moeara Moeroa (Mangaia/Atiu) and Rouru o Kurapai (Atiu).
Her grandfather had a band so, growing up, so she was surrounded by music, song and dance.
“I grew up singing in church, on nuku day, Te Maeva Nui,” she says. “I didn’t have much choice either, either you listened and learnt, or you got the purumu kikau.”
At 12 years of age, with the support of her teacher, the late Inangaro Papatua, she wrote her first piece of music.
As an adult she has composed songs for birthdays, utes, hymns and special occasions.
She presently lives in Melbourne, Australia. “Many of us leave home, but no matter where we are, home is always where our heart is.”
Her father Bruce George is of Aitutaki/Norwegian heritage, so she describes herself as a bit of a fruit salad, and says, “the beauty about it is embracing who you are.”
She is married to Nga Ngatokorua Pareanga and they have three children.
The project was the teamwork of Cook Islands singers, artists and crew. “I am very honoured and thankful to all the singers and team who took part,” she says. “This is our song, your song.”
Peyroux says: “The positive feedback to the song has gone way beyond the expectations of the team.
“Although there were things that were unplanned and many things to learn, it was gratifying to do this in support of Cook Islanders all over.
“Comments from people made our day and the project worth all the hard effort we had behind the scene with editing both the sound and video.”