Te Wiata was one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, of Maori, Scottish and Swedish descent, but brought up as a Maori. His father died when he was a toddler, and when his mother remarried the little boy went to relatives, the Rikihana family, as a tamaiti whangai.
His musical gifts were apparent even when he was young, and after his voice broke he joined a succession of local singing groups and concert parties.
He first earned his living working in a slaughterhouse and meat packing works, married a niece of Princess Te Puea (the first of two marriages), and settled at the headquarters of the Kingitanga movement, Ngaruawahia. Te Puea assigned him to the carving school, where he studied under Piri Poutapu and worked on Turongo, intended as the Maori king's residence.
He rose to become not only a world famous classical and light music singer but also one of the best traditional Maori carvers of the age. His most important work outside New Zealand is a monumental pouihi (rather like a North Coast Indian totem pole) in New Zealand House, London.
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