My Uncle taught me to play the guitar. He used to take me to all the parties when I was a kid. He’d play lead and I’d play rhythm. I only started busking a few years ago, but somehow, I’ve managed to accumulate all this stuff. Koinā tāku, he whakatangitangi i te rakuraku, kia harikoa ai te hīkoitanga o te tangata.
I grew up with my grandmother. My mother died in a car accident when I was about two years old. She’d been working down in Motueka picking tobacco. They’d finished for the season and were on their way back to catch the ferry in Picton when the taxi they were in flipped going through the Akaroa gorge. Of all her five mates in the car, my mother was the only one that died.
I remember seeing my Grandmother sitting on the steps, crying. I didn’t know what was wrong with her then, but I found out later that my mum had passed away. My parents were split at the time, so my father came down to get me. But my Grandmother said “no, you can’t take him. Take any of the others, but you leave him behind.” She loved me, my Grandmother.
My moko is Irihia. When we were living in Waima, near Toko, I used to look after her. Wherever I went, she used to go with me. I’d pull up outside her house in my car, or on my horse – because I was a horse wrangler in those days, and as soon as she heard me she’d drop everything and come running.
After she moved away, we always kept in touch. I used to write her letters. One day, she called me up out of the blue and said she was in Wellington and did I want to meet up?
So we arranged to meet at Queens Wharfe. I went down there about midday to wait for her. I was waiting and waiting. I hadn’t seen her in years, so I didn’t even know what she looked like. But then I saw her. She came walking around the corner and I knew straight away it was her. She had all this red hair.
And I thought, ko ia taku manawa. She is my all.
Koinā tāku, he whakatangitangi i te rakuraku kia harikoa ai te hīkoitanga o te tangata. That’s my job, to play the guitar and make people’s journey a bit brighter.
Ko ia taku manawa. She is my all.