Hirini Melbourne (1949-2003) belonged to the Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu iwi. Throughout his life he was involved with two broad areas of work, as a musician and as a teacher of Māori language, culture, and history. Melbourne was also known as a writer, editor and historian, and was involved with Treaty claims for his Tūhoe iwi.
Together with Richard Nunns and Brian Flintoff, Hirini was a major figure in the revival of the making and playing of traditional Māori instruments, taonga pūoro. He toured throughout the country giving performances and passing on knowledge about the instruments.
His two recordings for Rattle, Te Ku Te Whe (1994) and Te Hekenga-a-rangi (2003, completed only a few weeks before his untimely death to cancer), are groundbreaking classics within the New Zealand cultural landscape, hugely important and deeply influential works that Rattle is proud to have in its catalogue.
Hirini met ethnomusicologist and fellow musician Richard Nunns in 1989, and for the next decade the two would regularly performed together on marae, in schools, galleries, and concerts. This partnership was not only successful on a musical level, but also in terms of its extraordinary and abiding influence on musicians, composers, and performers in New Zealand and abroad. In 2002 Hirini was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Waikato where he had been a lecturer in the Department of Maori. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2003 New Year’s Honours List a week before his death.