Kirsten Te Rito’s new music video for ‘Te Kaitiaki (Tangaroa e)’ was released in May 2021. The music video shows the narrative of Te Kaitiaki, the illustration is by Wellington artist Xoë Hall. Nina Lesperance from SOUNZ sat down with Kirsten to talk about Te Kaitaki.
Ko Maunga a Kāhia te maunga
Ko Whangawehi te awa
Ko Kurahaupō te waka
Ko Rongomaiwahine te iwi
Ko Tuahuru te marae
Ko Kahurānaki te maunga
Ko Ngaruroro te awa
Ko Takitimu te waka
Ko Ngāti Hinemanu te hapū
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi
Ko Ōmāhū te Marae
Ko Kirsten Te Rito ahau
Congratulations on the release of the music video for your new song ‘Te Kaitaki.’ Can you tell us a bit about the song?
The initial idea for the waiata came about from an experience I had one New Year’s Day. I was having a moment by myself on Te Horo beach sending out some positive vibes to Tangaroa for the year ahead. When I had finished I drew a big circle around myself in the sand and as I looked up there was a big black seal standing quite still in front of me in the whitewash of the waves that were pounding the beach. It was a surreal moment and it felt as if my call to Tangaroa was answered.
Can you explain to the SOUNZ audience about your writing process?
Lately, I’ve been starting with a topic in mind and use Logic Pro to get a vibe going that suits my topic. Then I’ll start crafting lyrics to fit with what I’ve put down in logic. I like to get the vibe happening immediately – if I’m not feeling a particular instrument or sound I’ll try plug-ins or effects to help create the feel I’m going for and if that doesn’t work it gets the cut and I move on. It’s quite an organic process and I just go with the flow and follow my instincts.
You worked with the very talented wāhine Xoë Hall and Jamie Berry on the illustrations and animation for the music video for your new song ‘Te Kaitiaki.’ Can you please talk us through the process of collaborating with Xoe and Jamie to bring your vision to life?
I have been following Xoë’s art for some time and admired her incredible work but I was too chicken to approach her! Then by chance, a friend introduced me to our animator Jamie Berry. We needed to find an artist and I flipped when she suggested Xoë and said she would intro us! It was my absolute dream team.
How did you go about refining the narrative within the music video?
I thought about it a lot. I knew I wanted it to be an underwater adventure that reflected and showcased contemporary Māori art and Aotearoa. I sat down one day and worked out some scenes and transitions and drew some really awful pictures for a storyboard as a guide for Xoë. Jamie and I got together to refine it further and she had a wealth of really great ideas to add to the pot. I’m so happy with every aspect of it and think it’s a great amalgamation of each other’s talents.
‘Te Kaitaki’ is the title track from your EP. Can you tell us a bit about the rest of the EP that was released in 2020?
Te Kaitiaki EP was a project that I worked on with my husband James Illingworth and my cousin Joseph Te Rito who wrote two of the tracks. We were blessed to receive funding from Te Māngai Pāho to make it and we recorded and produced it from our home studio. The songs are exclusively in te reo Māori and combine electronic beats and lush synthy goodness. There are some socially conscious messages – Nā Wai te Wai I Takoha Mai talks about ownership of our water and Mā Wai Rā e Whakarongo talks of homelessness in Aotearoa.
Do you have anything else coming up that the SOUNZ audience should keep an eye out for?
Yes, later this year I’m going to be releasing a concept album called Collision which I’m very excited about. It’s got an eclectic dance vibe and was made from a range of synths, voice and nature samples that James and I recorded in Mahia over lockdown last year. We’ve recorded and produced it from our home studio in Wellington and was made with support from Creative New Zealand.