I am releasing my waiata ‘Kōtuku’ on 1 July which is the te reo Māori version of ‘Fly You Home’ a waiata which explores friendship across distance and indigenous solidarity. The song was playing on the radio in a dream that I had during the first lockdown in 2020. When I awoke, I remembered the first few lines and jotted them down. It was produced by my friends Brooke Singer and Ben Lemi (of French For Rabbits) who also perform on the track.
‘Fly You Home’, is written in a mix of English and te reo Māori, was both tracks were funded by the Waiata Takitahi initiative jointly funded by NZ on Air and Te Māngai Pāhō. I see these waiata as a musical bridge to connect to my friend, the internationally renowned Lakota/Kiowa Apache storyteller Dovie Thomason.
I started writing them during our first Covid-19 lockdown, and felt we were in a relatively privileged position here in Aotearoa. I was really concerned for other indigenous communities around the world. Dovie said in a comment on Facebook that she was ‘lying prone’ with a back problem at the time and that really spoke to me about the vulnerability of indigenous peoples worldwide.
The video director and animator, Jacob Perkins was living in Melbourne at the time the song was written but has recently returned to Wellington. He teamed up with local artist Emma Kitson who created the visual landscapes and artworks. The video features migrating birds, and landscapes of Aotearoa as well as Thomason’s high desert homelands in the Southwest of the States. The kōtuku, or white heron is a bird that features in Māori traditions as being very prized, and often an important manuhiri is spoken of as a “kōtuku rereka tahi” a bird of a single flight, as they are not often seen. This whakataukī and imagery is prominent in the video.
The waiata is being released by Oro Records, my label that I started in 2021 with fellow musicians Alistair Fraser and Ruby Solly. We started up the record company to support the release of our band Tararua’s album Bird Like Men, and have since released several other albums and videos.
‘Kōtuku’ and ‘Fly You Home’ lyrics, vocals and taoka puoro by Ariana Tikao
Translation and te reo support by Ross Calman (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Kāi Tahu)
Co-produced and recorded and mixed by Brooke Singer and Ben Lemi
Backing vocals, keys, guitar by Brooke Singer
Bass, drums, keys by Ben Lemi
Mastered by Mike Gibson, Munki Music
Video and animations and cover composition by Jacob Perkins, RDYSTDY
Illustrations by Emma Riha Kitson (Kāi Tahu)
Graphic design by Hannah Howes
Promotion and label support by Oro Records NZ
Project management by Horomaka Productions
Release date for ‘Fly You Home’ 26 May and for ‘Kōtuku’ 1 July 2022.
Funded by NZ on Air and Te Māngai Pāho, ‘Waiata Takitahi’ initiative.