Lorde’s Maori language EP “Te Ao Mārama” is for everyone
Following the release of her third studio album, “Solar Power”, Lorde surprised fans by releasing a surprise EP, “Te Ao Mārama” on September 9th.. The EP features five “Solar Power” songs recorded entirely in Te reo Maori, the indigenous language of the Maori people of New Zealand. Although the singer does not speak Maori Te reo, in a statement she said she created this version to honor the theme of “caring for and listening to the natural world” prevalent in “Solar Power.” Lorde, who is not Maori, credits Maori culture with creating the spiritual and nature-centered ‘worldview’ that all New Zealanders grow up with.
In a fan newsletter, the singer described herself as someone “who represents New Zealand to the world” and expressed her desire to promote aspects of Maori culture that help make New Zealand -Zeeland such a unique place. She released the EP shortly before New Zealand Maori Language Week, also known as Te Wiki o Teo Reo Māori, which aims to celebrate te reo Māori and encourage its importance within New Zealand today. Although it is New Zealand’s “mother tongue”, Maori te reo has historically been marginalized and erased in favor of English. Due to concerns about the “disappearing” language, there have been more recent initiatives to revive the language across New Zealand.
Due to this complex history, the release of a Te reo Maori album by a non-Maori singer has received mixed reviews. Maori face systemic oppression in New Zealand and have often been discriminated against for speaking Te reo Maori in the past. As a result, many Maori were raised without learning the language of their culture and continue to experience difficulties accessing learning resources today. Although she donates all profits from the EP, to some with this experience, Lorde’s use of te reo Māori in her album comes across as a fallacious ‘symbol’ rather than a ‘plea for the language’. . Many viewed ‘Te Ao Mārama’ as yet another example of a white person using an aspect of Maori culture while ignoring the vast history of discsarimination, injustice and erasure that the Maori people of New Zealand faced. .
On the flip side, many Maori leaders viewed the release of “Te Ao Mārama” as a milestone for the inclusion of te reo Māori in modern pop culture. Sir Tīmoti Kāretu, recognized leader in Maori language studies and contributor to “Te Ao Mārama” echoed this sentiment, stating that “any platform where the language is located is good for the language”. In a country which is working on the reintegration of te reo maori, this idea is common. In 2018, New Zealand pledged to have one million Te reo Maori speakers by 2040, and Lorde’s use of the language represents a likely way forward – Maori and non-Maori alike are learning to speak and use the language in their daily lives.
Despite her efforts to have the “good intentions,” Lorde admitted that releasing an album entirely in te reo Māori was a delicate process. In an interview with The Spinoff, she described herself as “out of [her] depth ”and although she has worked to respectfully interact with Maori culture, she understands that not everyone will agree with her decision to create“ Te Ao Mārama ”. Lorde “fully accepts[s]”the critics of those who disagreed with a white popstar like her releasing Maori te reo music, but ultimately decided that” what would have been worse is having had too much afraid to do so. ”In order to create te reo Maori versions of her songs, the singer worked with three different Maori translators, including Sir Tīmoti Kāretu. In addition, she consulted with many leaders and singers from the Maori community, including including her fellow singer Bic Runga, in order to include Maori talent on the album and ensure she was both precise and language friendly.
As a result, many Maori versions are not exact translations, but rather representative of the concepts expressed in the original music. Even the EP’s title, “Te Ao Mārama”, is not a direct translation of “Solar Power”, but rather means “world of light,” a phrase derived from a Maori creation myth. Similar changes are seen in “Te Ao Mārama”. In “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” a song about over-thinking and the rapid passage of time, “a wish bone drying on my kitchen window sill” is replaced with “the gift of the wishing star. still sits at my window ‘to contribute to the album’s natural themes. In “Oceanic Feeling”, a song about “family, Lorde’s past [and] the future, ”the singer greets Hine-i-te-Awatea, a Maori girl, at the end of the song. Hine-i-te-Awatea is the goddess of new beginnings, and the singer’s inclusion of her demonstrates a desire to further relate her work to Maori customs. These small changes combine to create a fascinating fusion of Maori culture and Lorde’s work.
“Te Ao Mārama” comes at a time when New Zealand is struggling to determine how to reintegrate Maori language and culture while remaining mindful of past relationships between Maori and non-Maori. Lorde’s work is both beautifully sung and created with the same well-written lyrics and emotional imagery that has become a hallmark of her work. “Solar Power” and “Te Ao Mārama” not only represent a new chapter in his career, but also mark the desire to further integrate Maori culture into today’s business world, both in New Zealand and on a global platform. For Lorde, “Te Ao Mārama” is for everyone.