Lorde has released a mini-album of tracks in Māori, describing the project as “powerful” and a “starting point” of a journey.
The New Zealand singer re-recorded five tracks from her Solar Power album in te reo Māori, the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s titled Te Ao Mārama, meaning “world of light”.
Speaking to pop culture website the Spinoff, the 24-year-old artist said she consulted a wide a range of people – including Māori elders – on the project. That included consideration of the view held by some that te reo Māori should be spoken only by Māori.
“It’s kind of scary to start any journey, but I guess that’s my thing; I am at the very beginning, and this project is a starting point,” the singer said.
While some Māori artists and songwriters have large followings in New Zealand, hearing indigenous languages on commercial radio is rare.
Lorde, who doesn’t speak the language, told the Spinoff that apart from learning a few simple songs at school, she wasn’t well prepared for recording in te reo. “It wasn’t something that was a big part of my life, and it was something that I had sort of sadness and a little bit of guilt around,” she said.
She worked with translators to record the album, which has a focus on the wonders of the natural world. “It felt really big when we were doing it … It was really emotional. I’d never had any writing or recording experience like it. It was really powerful,” she said.
Māori singer Hinewehi Mohi was among those involved in the project.
“I think the most important thing is to do these kinds of projects with integrity. As we break down all those fears that people might have, then we’ll get an amazing perspective of ourselves and how we fit into the world, and you won’t see any more placards saying ‘stop ramming Māori down our throats’. Eventually,” she said.
The proceeds of the sales of the album will go to two New Zealand charities, Forest & Bird and Te Hua Kawariki Charitable Trust.