With the benefit for hindsight, New Zealand singer-songwriter Anika Moa was a curious choice to launch into the US market. Once a pretty young starlet, she’s now a tattooed, coarse mouthed entertainer, who has branched into TV presenting and children’s music. Back at the turn of the 21st century, the tabloid coverage of her lesbian love life may have also dented her chances at mainstream success, but now it’s part of her rough hewn, honest appeal.
Moa moved into making children’s music after having her own children; “I had to listen to the Wiggles for a year. Hot potato, hot potato. Hot potato, hot potato. I wanted to stab someone in the head.” While children’s music is often heavily synthetic and perky, Moa’s albums are simply presented, revolving around acoustic guitar and Moa’s larger than life personality. Moa’s part Maori, and her songs often feature Te Reo (the Maori language), so I’m not sure how well they translate into other cultures, but in New Zealand Moa is probably as well known for her children’s music as for her adult albums.
After another summer holiday, replete with Anika Moa car playlists, here are five of my favourite songs from her children’s albums:
‘Taniwha, Taniwha’ is a great encapsulation of Moa’s methods. It’s rooted in New Zealand culture – the Taniwha is a mythical Maori monster, while it’s also full of New Zealand slang. It’s driven by Moa’s personality, as her Taniwha is alternately friendly and hungry.
My Nana’s Farm
Ever get sick of seeing the same old cows, sheep, and pigs on farms? At least they won’t eat you….
I’ve generally opted for the memorable, up-tempo songs, but a strength of Moa’s childrens albums is how they balance upbeat children’s songs with more subdued songs that also appeal to adults. The words are simple, but this low key and pretty song would fit on her adult albums, and it’s a respite from sensory overload for grown ups.
Tahi, Rua, Toru, Wha
Speeding up each verse, until the song becomes impossibly fast, is a great gimmick for a children’s album. In case you don’t recognise the words in the title, they’re Maori for the numbers one to four.
The Nigh Nighs Song
An upbeat lullaby is an oxymoron, but Moa makes it work. The song’s most memorable for her astonishing range of baby noises – it’s extra fun to sing along to all the “wahs” and “wiwiwis”.
Do you wish that Moa would hurry up and release a third volume of children’s songs? Is there some other children’s music that you recommend?