Calls for greater recognition of kapa haka as it births some of Aotearoa's greatest musicians

There are calls for greater recognition of kapa haka and the role it plays in developing Aotearoa's musicians and songwriters.

Kapa haka festival Te Matatini was given a massive boost in last month's Budget and while that's been welcomed questions are being asked about why it's taken so long to fund the art form.

These artists are some of Aotearoa's best-known and biggest music stars.

Yet what is not so known to some is that they're regular performers on the kapa haka stage at Te Matatini - the National Māori Performing Arts Festival

Apra Silver Scrolls winner and current Te Matatini champ Rob Ruha said kapa haka is more than an art form, it's Māoridom's most powerful medium of storytelling.

"Usually the writers and the performers and the artists that come out of the kapa haka world carry that power that might, that drive, that surety, that clarity, into the artistry," Ruha said.

For artists like Ria Hall, kapa haka has given her the discipline and confidence to pursue a full-time music career.

"For me kapa haka has been the tuāpapa, the foundation of everything that I do as an artist, as a businesswoman, as a mama," Hall said.

"[It's] everything that I am. The person that I am, the woman that I am, has really been driven from my strong sense of self in terms of who I am as a wahine Maori, where I come from and kapa haka has been the driver behind all of that.

Kapa haka newbie but internationally acclaimed singer Stan Walker said artists like Hall and Ruha are paving the way.

"Like they are leading in the world and their foundation is kapa haka," Walker said.

Of the top-selling Kiwi artists in the first months of this year - almost 80 percent were Māori.

And Te Reo songs are huge on streaming sites too - with over 13 million streams over the same period.

"It is such a breeding ground for music, it is such a breeding ground, you know, language and culture itself in debt needs to be recognized, the benefits are enormous," APRA AMCOS NZ head Anthony Healey said.

But it's not just music that kapa haka is influencing.

"We've got te reo Māori over Disney now, Reo and Māori whakaaro creeping into Marvel, we are everywhere. And that's the added benefit I don't think has been recognised yet, within the funding. We are still being funded as a festival," Ruha said.

This year kapa haka got a big boost in the Budget - with $34 million in funding for the biennial festival Te Matatini - that's up from $2.9 million a year.

But while that's been welcomed, critics say it's playing catch-up - and doesn't represent the full value of the art form. 

"There's nothing that speaks to business, there's nothing that speaks to education, there's nothing that speaks to innovation in this space or into trade or into small and large enterprises," Ruha said.

"So those are the other facets of kapa haka that are being dismissed at the moment but I would like to see forefront and front-footed by incoming Governments."

The true value of kapa haka yet to be fully recognised.

Calls for greater recognition of kapa haka as it births some of Aotearoa's greatest musicians