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Lorde honours New Zealand’s indigenous people with a five-song mini-album

The project, titled Te Ao Mārama, sees five Solar Power tracks translated to te reo Māori language

Last month, Lorde released her long-anticipated third album, Solar Power, which celebrates the beauty of the natural world. Now, the pop star has dropped a surprise five-song mini-album of tracks sung in te reo Māori – the indigenous language of her home country, New Zealand.

The companion album, titled Te Ao Mārama which means “world of light” in te reo, features covers of Solar Power’s “The Path”, “Solar Power”, “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, “Fallen Fruit”, and “Oceanic Feeling”. Each song was translated to the indigenous language with the help of native speakers, language experts, and Māori elders.

In an email newsletter announcing the release, Lorde explained that her “value system around caring for and listening to the natural world comes from traditional Māori principles.” 

“There’s a word for it in te reo: kaitiakitanga, meaning ‘guardianship or caregiving for the sky, sea, and land’. I’m not Māori, but all New Zealanders grow up with elements of this worldview,” she wrote. “I know I’m someone who represents New Zealand globally in a way, and in making an album about where I’m from, it was important to me to be able to say: this makes us who we are down here.” 

Speaking to the Spinoff, Lorde – who is not fluent in the language – shared that she was nervous to record the project. “It (te reo Māori) 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 noted. 

Over the past 150 years, the New Zealand government has made many attempts to eradicate the language, leading some Māori people to believe that te reo Māori should only be spoken by the indigenous group. Others, however, hope the language can be celebrated across the country.

In order to respectfully pay tribute, Lorde involved a number of Māori native speakers in the project, including singer Hinewehi Mohi, Hana Mereraiha, and Hēmi Kelly. “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,” she said. “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 continued: “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.”

All proceeds from Teo Ao Mārama will be donated to New Zealand-based charities – Forest and Bird and Te Hua Kawariki Charitable Trust.