Sunday News

Suzy Cato learns a lesson

The children’s entertaine­r talks to Eugene Bingham about why te reo and music are ‘the great connector’ as she releases a bilingual album.


Suzy Cato is distracted. She’s having her photo taken, but something has caught her eye. Or, more precisely, her ear. Before long, she can’t help but sing and dance along with kids doing an action song nearby.

It’snotevenon­eofherownm­any waiata drawn from decades of being one of Aotearoa’s most well-known children’s presenters.

But the music – and the joy from the tamariki – has drawn her in.

“Music is the great connector, it transcends all kinds of barriers, it just brings everyone together, it makes us feel good,” Cato says. “With these children doing the action song, once they’ve heard it a few times, they’ve got that sense of belonging.”

We’re with her at the Chrysalis Early Learning Centre in Auckland’s Avondale where Cato has come to perform with Christchur­ch singing sister duo, Leah Williams-Partington and Siu Williams-Lemi, known as Loopy Tunes.

Together, they’ve released a bilingual

EP, Kōwhai: Kōrero Mai, and for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, they’re particular­ly keen to share the language.

It was te reo Māori which helped draw them together.

“I approached Loopy Tunes earlier this year and I said, ‘I’d love to add some more action songs into my live shows, particular­lythosewit­htereoandw­ouldyouhel­p me write them?’. And we started with an action song.”

Even though Cato only has an audience of one (the Sunday Star-Times), she can’t help but break out into song right now.

“Kia ora e hōa, hello my friend. Kei te pēhea koe? How are you-ou-ou,” she sings, with as much enthusiasm as if the room was full, or she was performing for her weekly radio show or her 10,000-subscriber YouTube channel.

The videos for the EP are actually tri-lingual since they include NZ Sign Language courtesy of a collaborat­ion with Ko Taku Reo, Deaf

Education NZ.

“Songs are great for communicat­ion, great for repetition and learning,” she says.

But it’s deeper than that.

“It’s so important for your own identity with whatever language it is, to be able to have your own songs.

It’s part of your storytelli­ng

… it’s far better for your wellbeing, your soul and your heart.”

Long before she hit radio in the late 1980s and TV in the early

1990s, Cato grew up

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