We are excited to announce that Ariana Tikao has been honoured as an Arts Foundation 2020 Laureate receiving the Jillian Friedlander Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Award. 

Tikao is a leading player in the taonga puoro revival, and is bringing to life ancestral stories through song.

“He tino nui tēnei hōnore ki a ahau ki te tū iwaekanui i ēnei kaimahi toi katoa. It was such an honour to receive this award, and to get this recognition from my peers in the arts community of Aotearoa” Tikao said.

Ariana Tikao is a singer and composer of Kāi Tahu descent. She writes waiata exploring themes relating to her Kāi Tahu identity and mana wahine, often drawing upon historical kōrero from her ancestors. She is an artist who is amongst the current generation of leaders rejuvenating taonga puoro (the indigenous musical instruments of Aotearoa), following in the footsteps of Hirini Melbourne, and two of her mentors, Richard Nunns and Brian Flintoff.

In 2019 Tikao toured nationally with Atamira Dance Company, for the dance show Onepū, choreographed by Louise Potiki Bryant. Tikao co-composed the show’s soundtrack with Paddy Free, and also performed as Hinearoaropari, the atua of echoes. Onepū is based on an origin story that came from Tikao’s great-grandfather Teone Taare Tikao, about female atua (gods) of winds and other elements. Tikao says “we see these atua and this story as being able to connect us with our environment and whakapapa as well – very important in this day and age, in terms of the issues that we face, that we remember that we’re connected to our environment and not separate from it.” Tikao, Free, and Potiki Bryant are working on a new project together this year relating to Climate Change, on the theme of water, called Te Taki o Te Ua.

Tikao also works regularly with other taonga puoro exponents such as Alistair Fraser, sharing their knowledge through wānanga and performances. Tikao and Fraser are releasing an album together later this year, through Rattle Records.

Below is a link to the Arts Foundation website where you can find out more and also watch a video.

About Ariana

Ariana Tikao – Biography

Ariana is a singer, composer, and leading player of taonga puoro (indigenous musical instruments of Aotearoa). She writes waiata exploring themes relating to her Kāi Tahu identity and mana wahine, often drawing upon historical kōrero from her ancestors.

She has been mentored by Richard Nunns and Brian Flintoff, two of the people who have led the taonga puoro revival – after the instruments fell silent for generations. She regularly works with other taonga puoro exponents, such as Alistair Fraser and Ruby Solly, collaborating and sharing her knowledge through wānanga.

She started performing in 1993 with the folk group Pounamu, and has subsequently released three solo albums: Whaea (2002), Tuia (2008), and From Dust to Light (2012); and has been involved with many collaborative projects, including Emeralds and Greenstone, Auaha, and Ihimaera.

In 2008 she was a soloist in the World of Wearable Arts show in Wellington, and that same year performed in the Pao Pao Pao festival at the Wellington Town Hall, where she was presented with an achievement award from Toi Māori.

In 2015 Ariana and Philip Brownlee were commissioned by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO), to compose the first concerto for taonga puoro ‘Ko te tātai whetū’. Ariana performed it with the CSO that year, and later with Stroma and the Nelson Symphony Orchestra. She was set to perform it with the NZSO in April 2020, but these performances were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She has also performed with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the New Zealand String Quartet, and in 2016 was a featured singer in John Psathas’s epic international collaboration ‘No Man’s Land’.

In 2019 Ariana toured nationally with Atamira Dance Company, for the dance show Onepū, choreographed by Louise Potiki Bryant. Ariana co-composed the show’s soundtrack with Paddy Free, and also performed as Hinearoaropari, the atua of echoes. Ariana and Louise have been long-time collaborators, and their music video for Tuia won the best music video award at imagiNATIVE film + media festival in Toronto in 2009. Ariana, Paddy and Louise are working together on a new project in 2020, Te Taki o te Ua, about the importance of water, in the context of the Climate Crisis.

Ariana’s music has featured on television, film, theatre, dance, and in online videos. In 2019 Ariana worked with Karl Steven on the soundtrack for the documentary Fools and Dreamers, which highlights the work of the Hinewai Reserve. The pair have made the soundtrack album Hinewai available as an online fundraiser for the ecological reserve.

Whatever the setting for her music, Ariana always brings artistic integrity, and what one reviewer described as “depth and dignity,” making her a sought-after talent and collaborator in the arts scene in New Zealand today.

“…a magical and at times mystical trip… like being bundled up in a big feather cloak and transported to another world” (Review of Tuia album)

“This was a moving collaboration by both composers… Ariana has an other-worldly beauty, singing with purity and spirit” (Review of the NSO performance of ‘Ko te tātai whetū)

Website:          www.arianatikao.com

Email:              ariana.tikao.nz@gmail.com

Phone:             0274535738

Licensing:        https://songbroker.nz/ariana-tikao


Hineraukatauri Achievement Award, Toi Maori, 2008

Finalist Waiata Maori Awards 2008/2009

Finalist in RIANZ Folk Album of the Year Award 2009, for Emeralds & Greenstone album

Musician in Residence, Centre for NZ Studies, University of London, 2008 (Funded by Te Waka Toi, Creative NZ)

Winner best music video, imagiNATIVE film + media festival 2009, Toronto


No shows booked at the moment.



Pupuhi Rau – Live at Orange Studio, Christchurch

This is a live version of a whanau waiata ‘Pupuhi Rau’ accompanied by members of Emeralds & Greenstone (Jonathon Hooker, James Wilkinson, and Argene Montgomery-Honger) and Alistair Fraser. The guys from Orange Studio made a beautiful job of filming and editing the performance.

Kā Roimata

Kā Roimata being performed at the Nelson Arts Festival 2010, as a part of the Ōhākī show. Featuring Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir, Karuna Karasulas, Richard Nunns, Jon Hooker and Argene Montgomery-Honger.


‘Tuia’ is the first track on Ariana’s album also called ‘Tuia’. It’s a beautiful and stunning piece of film by Louise Potiki Bryant . Please check out : www.myspace.com/arianatikao for more of her lovely New Zealand maori music.

Let there be Light (LIVE at Orange Studio)

You can now see the video for Let there be Light, from the concert at Orange Studio, 28 November 2014. I was accompanied by Jon Hooker on guitar, James Wilkinson on bass, Argene Montgomery-Honger on bodhran, and Alistair Fraser on taonga puoro.

This waiata was written as a song of hope for Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes of 2010/2011.

Ōhākī at Christchurch Arts Festival

Te Heke

This is about whakapapa and our responsibilities to it. Whakapapa defines the connection between all things. This song particularly celebrates the lines of descent. The rope represents the lines of descent of whakapapa. So it is a connection between different generations.

Ka Huri te Wa

This is my first music video that I made in 2002 which was released with my first solo album Whaea. The video is for Ka Huri te Wa, which was filmed at Takahanga Marae. It was made by Fisheye Films and funded by Te Mangai Paho. The kaupapa of the waiata is Te Reo Maori revitalisation and was written in 1995 at a Maori immersion hui at Takahanga Marae, and so it was a great experience to go back to that same marae, at a real wananga reo to film the video. My son Tama makes a cameo appearance towards the end – he is the baby in the blue hoodie (nowadays he is a teen, and is taller than me!)

He mihi nui ki nga kaimahi, ki te whanau o Takahanga hoki!

Ōhākī at Christchurch Arts Festival

Contact Ariana

For general enquiries please fill in the contact form on this page.

Get in touchclear

For publishing enquiries contact the lovely people at Songbroker:
(+64) 9 846 8892