Open main menu Close main menu

Talking with Teeks

  • Teeks 2
    Photo by Shaidy Pako

“As long as I'm still singing and writing songs that's all I could ask for… be able to do it as a job is insane.” 

Teeks grew up surrounded by music and performance. Raised with strong Kapa Haka influences, Teeks went on to form his own band at high school, before being selected to participate in the late Dr Hirini Melbourne’s development initiative, Pao Pao Pao, for emerging and establishing Māori artists.   He studied a Diploma in Contemporary Music at Unitec from 2013-2014. 

…..”I wanted to study somewhere that was a lot more hands-on....”

Teeks released his debut EP Grapefruit Skies last year, featuring the lead single ‘If Only’ (produced by Jeremy Most).  Teeks was the inaugural winner of the Best Māori Artist at last year's Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.

Teeks talks about the influences that his Unitec experience has had on his life and career to date, and coming back to teach Te Reo Māori.

What course did you study at Unitec, and when?

A Diploma in Contemporary Music 2013 - 2014.

What interested you about studying at Unitec? 

I had asked around my circle and Tama Waipara, who is a friend and mentor of mine, was actually lecturing a paper that was part of the course.  He recommended Unitec as a good place to start and for me I wanted to study somewhere that was a lot more hands-on. 

What was a key highlight of your time at Unitec?  

For me it would have to be the people. I made some strong friendships during my time at Unitec, particularly being part of Whai ake i te ara tika which is the Māori Mentoring programme. Coming from rural Northland, Auckland was a big culture shock for me and took some time getting used to. Programmes like Whai Ake or Unitec’s Mātātupu Māori Student Association are important especially for the benefit of feeling like you belong somewhere. The lecturers in my course were awesome and incredibly supportive and they continue to show support even after I've left.

Did your time at Unitec help you establish industry connections that you were able to benefit from?

Yes, definitely. My lecturers were pretty much all part of the NZ music industry in their own way, and it was great to see them not only lecture in the classroom but do their own thing out in the world.  Samuel Holloway, Age Pryor and Chris O'Connor -- who is actually one of the best drummers in the country. He played on a couple of the recordings on my EP. 

I understand you are also a Te Reo Māori teacher at Unitec.  What led you to teach?  Has Te Reo Māori always played a role in your life? 

Yes.  The other good thing about Unitec is they offer good job opportunities for students while they study. During my time there as a student I was helping out as Tātai Hono (Kaiawhina) for the Kura Pō - Te Reo Māori evening short courses, and eventually was asked to come back and teach. Te Reo Māori was my first language and it has always played a huge part in my life. When people start to learn it they begin to realise that it isn't just a language but also a worldview. I feel fortunate that I get to see the world through a Māori lens and it's very rewarding when I get to share that with people who want to learn. 

What’s been the highlight of your musical career so far?

Probably releasing my EP last year and watching the response. I spent two years piecing it together and I'm proud of the outcome. I've been lucky to have been part of some amazing opportunities, and I think performing my song at the NZ Music Awards at the end of last year was a good way to wrap up 2017.

What’s on the agenda for this year?  

Travel. I'm going to be travelling a lot this year mainly to work with writers and producers around the world. I'm going to start creating and piecing together my next body of work which I can't wait to dive into. 

Where would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?

Singing. As long as I'm still singing and writing songs that's all I could ask for. Nothing makes me happier and to be able to do it as a job is insane.