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Thu Sep 23, 2021, 10:43 AM

What Lorde's Te Reo Maori Songs Mean For The Effort To Revive The Language

Who is entitled to sing in a language that is not their own? That was the question from some fans after New Zealand pop artist Lorde released a mini-album of five of her songs translated in te reo Maori, the language spoken by the people indigenous to her home country of New Zealand. Lorde is not Maori, but she said in a statement that much of her value system comes from traditional Maori principles.

"There's a word for it in te reo," she said in the statement, " 'kaitiakitanga,' meaning 'guardianship or caregiving for the sky, sea and land'... 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."

And while this choice has drawn a lot of attention, Maori artists say it's just one part of a much larger movement to revitalize the language through, among other things, the power of music.

That movement gained traction when singer Hinewehi Mohi shocked audiences at the 1999 Rugby World Cup with her rendition of New Zealand's National Anthem. She had just released her debut album Oceania in te reo Maori her native language and when she was asked to sing at the Rugby World Cup, she decided it made sense for her to do the same.


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