I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. E Ipo by Prince Tui Teka is The Great New Zealand Love Song.
E Ipo was written by Tui with the help of Ngoi Pewhairangi, a Maori educator, translator, teacher, custodian for the culture. She also wrote the lyrics for Poi-E for The Patea Maori Club. But Pewhairangi wrote the lyrics to E Ipo for Tui to sing to his wife Missy, to announce his love to her – for her – to the world. It might have just been New Zealand – his world, their world – but he belted that song out as a declaration of the overwhelming love he felt for his partner. It’s beautiful. And I’m no expert in Te Reo, I don’t even know if this translation is 100 per cent accurate but the tone of the piece, as I said here, was him essentially saying:
To you, my darling/my greetings/No matter where you go/I will follow close behind.
My love/will remain firm/Come my beloved, turn to me your spouse here/and I will support you/my darling.
And there’s the spoken-word breakdown in English which not only pays tribute to the gospel and doo-wop influences, to the honky-tonk and rock’n’roll that Tui grew up with, it also spells out the song’s sentiment for everyone. It is a reiteration of all that Tui sings in his native tongue to his wife, the love of his life.
The melody is lifted from this song.
A remarkable song though in the version Tui recorded – and a great statement for the power of singing, for the power that the human voice can convey, cutting through language, Tui offers his own meaning to the words in the way he embraces them. You get the passion from hearing his singing. You might not have the slightest notion what he is singing about when you hear the Te Reo lyrics, but you feel them, you understand because of the way emotion is conveyed. Well, that’s my understanding anyway.
What a huge song. A great song. A powerful song. What an amazing statement of love – this proud man sharing his feelings for the love of his life, singing it nightly with her beside him, one of the life-forces (it was Missy and music) that pushed him on in his quest to entertain.
Now I know there are some other amazing love songs that come from the great writers in this country. A very obvious contender is Chris Knox’s Not Given Lightly – again it’s a man declaring his love for his partner, for the mother of his children. It’s there in the song, clearly stated.
You might think of Anchor Me by The Mutton Birds or Beside You by Dave Dobbyn. Good options, both.
Neil Finn knows a thing or two about writing a decent love song – he’s written a bunch of them, across Split Enz, Crowded House his solo career and side-projects like Pajama Club.
Jordan Luck, Martin Phillipps, Tim Finn, Jan Hellriegel, Anika Moa – this is just the beginning of the list, surely…there are so many other names that you can mention.
A great compilation of the best Kiwi love songs could be something truly special. But at number one, my vote goes to E Ipo by Prince Tui Teka.