International star and New Zealander, Lorde, is paying tribute to her home country with new recordings of a set of songs off her latest album, “Solar Power,” in the country’s Indigenous language, Māori.
“Many things revealed themselves slowly to me while I was making this album, but the main realization by far was that much of my 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,” Lorde wrote in an email announcing the new album.
“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.”
To make the re-recordings happen, Lorde worked with Māori speakers, activists, and artists, including renowned performer and producer Dame Hinewehi Mohi, who once shocked the world by performing New Zealand’s national anthem in Māori rather than English at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
The Māori people still struggle with the repercussions of their British-colonial history that resulted in not only the loss of land but the erasure of their language and identity.
When New Zealand became a British colony, the Native Schools Act of 1867 forced the teaching of English to the Māori people—children were even physically punished for speaking the Māori language. As a result, the population of native Māori speakers dwindled over generations.
After a 1970’s research project examined the extent of the survival of the language, the Māori Language Act of 1987 recognized Māori as an official language in the country, and efforts to revitalize the language have been quite successful since dedicated groups began working to make sure it does not get lost.
The Māori language movement is described by Hana Mereraiha, a translator for Lorde for several songs on the album, as “ensuring that our language is normalized, floods the music industry, spoken by our babies, the medium of instruction in our education system — because that is the key to our healing of that intergenerational trauma, and it’s the key to the success of the Indigenous people of Aotearoa for the future generations to come.”
“And if it means that Lorde is going to be a part of that movement, and use her platform to be an advocate for this movement,” Mereraiha said, “so be it.”
Proceeds of songs for the project will benefit two New Zealand-based charities: Forest and Bird and the Te Hua Kawariki Charitable Trust.