“The Messiah disdains not to be a servant of Allah, nor do the angels who are near to Him. And whoever disdains His service and is proud. He will gather them all together to Himself.” –Holy Qur’an, Surah 4, verse 172
It has been nearly 15 years since I first met award-winning songwriter, vocalist, recording artist and social activist Moana Maniapoto, in Detroit, Michigan in 1990. She had traveled to the United States from New Zealand in the company of the prestigious Maori social activist couple, Cid and Didre Jackson, brother and sister-in-law of the late Bob Jackson, husband of June Jackson.
This was the first time that I had met members of the Maori Nation and knew very little of their history and migrations across the Pacific. They came to Detroit as guests of Brother Akbar Muhammad, International Representative and liaison for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. The following year, preparations were made. Brother Akbar extended an invitation to my son, Minister Rasul Muhammad, who was then appointed the Minister of Detroit by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and I to make our first overseas journey to New Zealand, or Aotearoa, “the land of the long, white cloud.”
We arrived in time to participate in the annual observance of the signing of the Treaty of Waitaigni, a document that raises questions about the legitimacy of the White man’s projection and concept of Maori Sovereignty over the land. My son, Rasul, and I stepped into the New Zealand arena of political and social controversy pitted against the worldview of the Maori.
While we were in New Zealand, we were interviewed on Maori radio talk shows and soon became an important cultural link with the Maori people through contact with the Jackson family. Brother Akbar was convinced from the first moment of our departure to this beautiful land that we were certain to find spiritual keys that would join us to the Maori people and nation. More discoveries in this revealing story will be further explored in my next article, God willing. An important bridge was built between our two people, which carried into social, spiritual and educational relations, which also expresses the cultural and performing arts.
Moana Maniapoto, formerly married to William Jackson and son of June Jackson, is an outstanding spokesperson for the Maori people and culture through her music and songs. In her personal career, she has evolved as an energetic representative of her people and culture. In her work and latest accomplishments, much has been said and published in leading magazines and literature throughout New Zealand, the South Pacific and Europe, in particular. Inside of her CD literature, her name, Moana, is translated in the Maori language of New Zealand, simply as “the ocean.” It is that vast distance of the Pacific Ocean and the culture of her Maori Ancestors that gives singer/songwriter Moana Maniapoto a unique identity in the Western musical world.
Until recently, taonga puoro (traditional Maori instruments) had almost disappeared from Maori culture. Missionaries had dismissed them as tools of paganism. Over 40 have now been identified and revived. Some have been recorded for the very first time, courtesy of Moana and the Moahunters (the name of her previous group, which has now been changed to “Moana and the Tribe”).
Moana studied law in her earlier years and it has been quoted that she, as a singer of political and cultural consciousness, is one of the most renowned artists to emerge from New Zealand. She creates a fusion between smooth world music and the urban sound with earthly, international beats, according to the German magazine Suddeutsche Zeitung.
In 2004, Moana became the first non-American to win a major U.S.-based songwriting contest with her song, “Moko” (meaning sacred tattoo). She won the first prize over 11,000 compositions at the International Songwriting Competition. Back home in New Zealand, she was further honored when she was admitted as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. She is also an award-winning documentarian, working with her mentor and partner Toby Mills. She founded the Maori Music Industry Coalition.
In closing, I would like to mention that my son, Rasul, composed a special song on the plane on our way to New Zealand, entitled, “Brothers, We Must Be One,” which was later recorded with Moana on one of her award-winning CDs, entitled “Tahi.” We wish the best to her in her ongoing career. She and her band have done over 100 concerts in Europe and are looking forward to performing in the United States. A delegation of Maori representatives will join us in the 10th Anniversary of the Million Man March.
“Then as for those who believe and do good, He will pay them fully their rewards and give them more out of His grace. And as for those who disdain and are proud, He will chastise them with a painful chastisement, and they will find for themselves besides Allah no friend nor helper.” –Holy Qur’an, Surah 4, verse 173
To be continued.