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Welsh-language musicians and academics visit Aotearoa (New Zealand) to explore the power of live music for minority languages

25 October 2023

Three people sit amongst balloons
Welsh band Chroma

Welsh performers and academics will visit Aotearoa/New Zealand this month as part of a project examining live music and its importance to minority languages.

Prosiect Pūtahitanga is a creative practice and research project led by Cardiff University in partnership with the University of Waikato and FOCUS Wales. It aims to find points of connection between te reo Māori (the Māori Language), te ao Māori (the Māori world/world view) and Welsh-language culture through the lens of each country’s music scene.

Earlier this year, Māori band Half/Time visited Wales to perform at FOCUS Wales and a number of gigs around Wales, as well as giving a talk at Cardiff University.

For this stage of the project, Welsh language band Chroma, whose first album is released this month, will travel to Aotearoa (New Zealand), performing with Half/Time at a series of gigs, including the Festival of Weird in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton).

Academics from the University and Andy Jones of FOCUS Wales will also be going to exchange information, gather research and explore further collaborative opportunities.

The project team will also go on a lost venues walk around Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), drawing their attention to challenges faced by musicians and promoters in the city which resonate with those experienced in the live music sector in Cymru.

Andy Jones and members of Half/Time will participate in a panel discussion at SAE Creative Media Institute in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) on the barriers and opportunities for developing infrastructure for music communities; and how artists can take the step from creating art to thinking about how to present themselves internationally.

The group will also meet with creatives, promoters, and funders to understand the challenges facing the emerging Māori DIY music scene in Aotearoa, identifying actionable steps to support the scene, and to discuss further artist exchange opportunities between Aotearoa and Cymru.

It’s an absolute honour to be invited to Aotearoa to play some shows with our new friends Half/Time. We played with them earlier this year when they visited the UK and can't wait for them to show us their favourite venues and places they like to hang out.

Zac Mather Chroma

Wairehu Grant, guitarist with Half/Time, who is conducting his PhD on the creative and ideological crossovers between Māori and punk culture at the University of Waikato, said: “After the amazing time we had in Cymru earlier this year and the manaakitanga (hospitality) we were shown by both the Cardiff University team and the folks in Chroma, we’re super excited to welcome them all to Aotearoa. Really looking forward to playing more shows with Chroma and collaborating with the Cardiff team further.”

Andy Jones, founder of FOCUS Wales said: “We are delighted to be collaborating on this very important project, which connects our two music communities, and will deliver lots of exciting cultural exchange over the coming months and years.”

A number of academic activities are also taking place during the trip. Dr Elen Ifan of the School of Welsh and Dr Joseph O’Connell from the School of Music will interview musicians performing in te reo Māori in a development of a pilot project held at FOCUS Wales in May 2023, as part of research investigating what it means to perform in a minority language.

Dr Ifan will also be leading a creative-collaborative research workshop with Māori musicians at Creative Waikato in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), the first of two workshops funded by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol Grant Arloesi. The second will be held in Cardiff with Welsh musicians.

Dean for the Welsh Language Dr Huw Williams will also give a seminar at the University of Waikato on the language and culture of Wales, and the potential consequences of losing sight of their value and intellectual significance.

It’s really exciting to be involved with this trip and to be representing the University to explore our partnership and shared interests. I’m sure it will be a huge learning experience for all of us.

Dr Huw Williams Dean for the Welsh Language, Reader in Philosophy and Associate Lecturer with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol

Cardiff University’s Academi Gymraeg Manager Catrin Jones, who is leading the project, said: “Although our countries are on opposite sides of the world, it’s clear that Cymraeg and Māori cultures have much in common. We hope strengthening links between Cymru and Aotearoa will increase the confidence of musical artists performing in their own languages, as well as deepen their understanding of the international opportunities open to them.

“In the long term, we are hopeful of creating a lasting partnership so that indigenous artists from Aotearoa, and Cymraeg artists from Cymru, can gain access to opportunities to develop their careers outside their home countries, as well as exploring a deeper connection with their own identity and language.

“This project has been made possible thanks to support and positive energy from Cardiff University, University of Waikato, FOCUS Wales, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, Wales Arts International, British Council NZ, Creative Waikato and most especially, members of Half/Time and CHROMA.”

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