Music Industry Careers: Seth Haapu

  • Name: Seth Haapu (Ngati Porou, Tahiti)
    Hometown: Whanganui
    Job: Composer and producer of music for independent film
    Experience: Recording artist (Seth Haapu, Volume I) mentor for emerging Maori artists in the Pao Pao Pao programme and producer of the debut Pao Pao Pao album.

    Tell us about the film you are working on.

    The film is called Poi Hopes and Dreams. It's about ten individual Maori women that are very good at poi, and how the use of the poi is a metaphor for how they parent their children.


    How do you match your compositions with the content of the film?
    I've been lucky that I've had experiences that have focused on a producer role where I've had to listen more. A lot of the music inspiration comes from what their stories inspire, rather than from a technical standpoint. And so I've listened to what they're trying to convey and tried to translate that in a musical sense.

    What gave you the confidence to take this role?
    I think just working over the years with different musicians and being open to a collaborative community. I think often that can really help with sharpening up your ideas, exposing you to new ideas and methods about production that you weren't quite sure of before.

    What kind of technical and personal skills do you need to be good at this role?
    The technical skills you need include a knowledge of recording software, and you need to play an instrument or use MIDI to arrange your musical ideas. And the other essential thing is your creativity and really trying to connect and translate what's being told visually, in a musical sense. It's really paying attention to the detail of the story being told.

    Some of the good personal tools are to be open to collaborative experiences, you can learn so much from that. And also sharing your ideas with other people, and just growing that music community. And it also extends to when you're given a particular brief for a certain type of production that you need to do, it's good to have versatility from one genre to another genre, and therefore being flexible in your craft.

    You have to work to deadlines too, so flexibility is really helpful with that. Some projects have to be done in a short amount of time, and with others there's a bit more back and forth between you and the company that needs the music produced.

    Being a good listener is very vital, because if you've been given a concept and the company has asked you to come up with the music for it, you have to be conscious of what the other party wants.

    What should students do while at school to help them develop their skills?
    For me, when I was at school, NCEA provided opportunities to perform and collaborate with other people, and those foundations really helped solidify what I do now. And making the most of opportunities that come through school is really important, because you learn quite fundamental things, like with composition. It's always fantastic to take all those opportunities in. You're given opportunities to gain credits to compose and perform as a group, so take them all on board and do your best.