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Rob Ruha

Rob Ruha’s Biography

Last Updated:
19/04/2021, 12:39 pm
Haka Soul Composer / Musician
Arts Foundation Laureate 2017
Te Whānau-ā-Apanui/Ngāti Porou
Rob Ruha is a composer and solo artist, part of a new generation of Māori songwriters.

Born of a powerful lineage of Māori artists, Rob was nurtured in a community of rhythmic dance, pulsing haka, spontaneous song, dynamic Māori leadership and a legacy of innovation to be the artist he is today.

He is a product of powerful kapa haka traditions of song and indigeneity and in 2013, under the guidance and mentorship of Maisey Rika, began a career as a solo artist. Since then, Rob has collected a string of New Zealand Music awards and his unique style of music that he has coined ‘Haka-soul’ has been performed and embraced all around the world.

At the New Zealand Music Awards in 2014 and 2016, Rob took home the Tui for Best Māori Album. Rob has also taken home NZMA awards for Best Songwriter, Best Māori Song, Best Male Solo Artist (Waiata Māori Music Awards) and the prestigious APRA Maioha Award twice for his waiata ‘Kariri feat. Tiki Taane’ and ‘Tiki Tapu.’ In addition, Rob has won numerous kapa haka awards for his leadership, tutor roles and compositions beginning with his first national award at the age of 17 for Best Waiata Tira performed by Waihīrere Māori Club at the Aotearoa Traditional Māori Performing Arts Festival (now known as Te Matatini).

These achievements have lead him to assume official roles as an ambassador for APRA AMCOS NZ, the Waiata Māori Music Awards and as a mentor to many young Māori artists including Kaaterama Pou, internet sensations the ‘Rū-cru’ and New Zealand’s hottest male soul artist TEEKS. It is through these roles that Rob champions the contributions of the kapa haka world to the New Zealand music scene and its might as a ready-made and powerful audience for Māori Music artists. His success as a full time Solo Artist to date is testimony to that.

As a songsmith, Rob is acknowledged by his tribal elders as possessing; “a genius that lies in the rare ability of weaving together sound and rhythm to conjure emotions, that bring to life the lyrics of the song. His compositions are well known and his skill in the area of sung poetry is without compare amongst people of his age group.” (Rikirangi Gage, 2013) Rob is known for his ability to create music that passes effortlessly through multiple genres; resting for a time in grounded bed of soul, RnB and Roots Reggae and leaving again to explore lamenting kōauau, ambient soundscapes, electronica and glorious orchestral walls of sound. The themes of his music are bold statements of protest, positioning and indigenous prospectives on the social impacts of destructive political behavior on indigenous communities. Robs music presents remedial social commentary inspired by prophetic movements, historical narratives, and his life as a father, a husband, a marae boy and follower of the Ringatū faith.

This composition prowess has seen Rob judge the APRA Maioha Award the Top 20 for the highly coveted APRA Silver Scroll award and various VNZMA awards. An acclaimed kapa haka exponent, Rob has also judged the quality and standard of this art form for the past 15 years at national and international competitions. He was a mentor and judge for the reality television series “The Kapa” where he trained the winning team and was an expert panelist for the live broadcast of Te Matatini in 2017.

In recognition of his ability to navigate traditional and contemporary Māori music spheres with ease, Rob was a consultant and performer on the award winning soundtrack for the movie ‘Mahana’ directed by Lee Tamahori (soundtrack by Tama Waipara and Mahuia Bridgeman-Cooper). Rob was also the Musical Director and translator for the re-versioning of the Disney smash-hit movie ‘MOANA’ into Te Reo Māori.

Rob is also a talented weaver and painter and began learning these arts with his grandmothers from the age of seven. Some of his work can be seen adorning many of the countries top kapa haka performers and his paintings have been sort after collector’s items. In 2015, he created a woven piece entitled ‘Te Kiko-o-te-rangi’ for the Ko Rongowhakaata marae exhibition series. This piupiu is now on display at Te Papa Museum as a part of the Rongowhakaata visual art collection. These arts, combined with his status as a tribal orator has seen him be selected twice as a New Zealand arts Delegate for the Festival of Pacific Arts in Pagopago and Guam. He was also selected as a Contemporary Māori Musician delegate with Ria Hall and Tama Waipara for the Tuku Iho Arts Exhibition in Washington DC and Los Angeles.

An academic, Rob graduated with his Masters degree in Mātauranga Māori in 2007. His research was a study on Haka and Waiata Māori as the most potent sources of information about a Māori community and its unique bodies of knowledge. In 2009, Rob was the recipient of the AUT Vice Chancellors award for PhD studies and is the former Director of the National Institute of Māori and Indigenous Performing Arts.

Rob’s music as a Solo Artist and as a kapa haka exponent has seen him perform in front of many international audiences, collaborate with some of New Zealand’s finest musicians and open and support international artists such as John Legend and Justin Timberlake.

In 2017 Rob received the Arts Foundation Laureate Award at the New Zealand Arts Awards.

With a catalogue of over 200 compositions, Rob believes his best work is yet to come. In the summer of 2017, Rob will release his highly anticipated second album “Survivance” - a fresh presentation of festival soul & RnB tracks that promote the Māori nation as relevant, spirited, capable, connected, prophetic, morally courageous and unrelenting in their pursuit of self determination. In 2018, Rob will engage in several international collaborations with indigenous artists and producers and will continue to support new Māori artists to develop and extend the reach of indigenous consciousness through good music.

Milestones & Awards