Described in the US magazine The Beat (2006) as a 'truly inspiring performing and recording artist', charismatic lead singer Moana has been credited by Songlines (2006) with 'laying the foundations for the recent international exposure of New Zealand acts like Te Vaka, Fat Freddy's Drop and Wai.'
Moana has consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music in both her recordings and live performances, fusing taonga puoro, haka, chants with soul, reggae and classical 'to produce her own blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either.' ( New Zealand Herald, 2003).
She draws on her identity as a Maori woman, with a background in traditional performing arts, to write songs that still manage to resonate with global audiences.
Her first band Moana & the Moahunters played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Vancouver Folk Festival. Their remake of the classic 'Black Pearl' shot them up the New Zealand charts, earning the band their first gold single.
Moana & the Tribe were formed in 2002, quickly cementing their reputation as one of the most successful indigenous groups to emerge from Aotearoa. The bands CD Toru entered the European World Music Charts at 17 and followed it up a year later with the DVD Live & Proud (Pirate / SONY Records.).
They were profiled through specials on Bavarian Television ( Germany) and on Rai Uno (Italy). Moana & the Tribe launched the New Zealand feature film The Whale Rider into Germany in 2003 then returned to New Zealand to support superstar Youssou N'dour (2004). A highlight for the band was performing in the Cultural Olympiad throughout Greece.
In 2004, Moana became the first non-American to win a major U.S.A based songwriting contest with her song Moko. Moana beat over 11,000 compositions to win the Grand Jury Prize of the International Songwriting Competition.
Moana & the tribe have played nearly 150 international concerts. The most recent ranged from Kanak villages in the islands of New Caledonia to sell out concerts in Russia. Moana cites meeting and singing for Nelson Mandela during his Auckland visit as a personal highlight.
Moana is a recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), a Life Time Recipient of the Toi Iho Maori Made Mark and received the 2005 Te Tohu Mahi Hou a Te Waka Toi Award from Te Waka Toi (Creative New Zealand ), in recognition of outstanding leadership and contribution to the development of new directions in Maori art.
In 2007, Moana joined four other outstanding arts made Art Laureates by the NZ Arts Foundation.
Offstage, Moana is one half of an award-winning documentary team led by her partner and band member Toby Mills. One of their most recent documentaries on intellectual property and traditional knowledge 'Guarding the Family Silver', has screened in theatres and at conferences around the world. Their latest documentary 'The Island' will be launched at the Erupt Lake Taupo Festival of Arts.