Queen classic is a hit in te reo Ma¯ ori
What happens when a leading music company asks Whanga¯ rei’s Hatea Kapa Haka to translate rock group Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody into te reo Ma¯ ori?
You end up with a viral Facebook video which has more than 300,000 views and more than 3000 shares.
“They told us it would go viral, but we’re shocked. Straight away it went right up. It had 1000 views within the first couple of minutes, to get it up to nearly 300,000 views and that many shares — wow,” said tutor Joby Hopa.
The video — which features the group singing the te reo Ma¯ ori version of the song while pushing a car down the road with internet sensation William Waiirua — came after Universal Music approached Hatea backstage at the APRA Silver Scroll Awards following the group’s opening performance.
“We’ve got arrangement and harmonies and all of this going on so they asked us if we would be interested in translating Bohemian Rhapsody into Ma¯ ori and then arrange it and learn it and then join in the video with Wiremu Waiirua,” Hopa said.
In two weeks they had the song ready, in one afternoon the group learned it, the next week they were in Waiwera shooting the video, and two weeks later it was on Facebook.
“Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most iconic songs out there in the world — one of the most famous songs in the world. At karaoke you hear lots of people butcher it because it’s so hard to sing.
“Even we were a little bit apprehensive because Queen is such an artist and (Freddie Mercury’s) voice range is amazing and for us to try emulate that, or get anywhere near that was going to be a challenge.” The arrangement was conducted by David Tapene, while the lyrics were translated by his daughter Te Amohaere Morehu, Otene Hopa and Raniera Harrison. Translating was all about finding the right words.
“You can translate word for word or you can see what the essence of the song is. So for the crew translating, it’s not verbatim word for word transliteration, it’s feeling what’s the essence when Queen’s delivering that. It was quite hard but doable.
“We had a bit of an entourage following and they loved it.”
Hopa said the recognition was good for the group, Pehiaweri Marae — the group’s base, and Whangarei. While only snippets of the version featured, the entire song had been translated. Will we hear the full version?
“Watch this space,” Hopa said.
Hatea Kapa Haka and William Waiirua in the video for the te reo Ma¯ ori rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.