Jen Cloher Honors Their Maori Heritage With Single & Video “Harakeke”

[Cover photo credit to Marcelle Bradbeer]

Multi-award-winning artist and Milk! Records co-founder Jen Cloher has just released their fifth album, I Am The River, The River Is Me, via Marathon Artists/ Milk! Records. Along with the release, she has shared new video for single “Harakeke.” Cloher will also embark on a European tour in June with a run of UK dates. 

I Am The River, The River Is Me honors Cloher’s Māori heritage and the indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand. This is the first time that they have woven the Māori language through their songwriting. 

On the new single, Cloher says:

“Patti Smith once said ‘The dead speak. We have forgotten how to listen.’ Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview) tends to agree. We know there is a thin veil between the living and the dead and that our Tūpuna (Ancestors) are right there with us. This is the spirit I felt close when I was writing and recording the album. I am not doing this alone and it’s not just for me.

Harakeke (or the flax plant) has been used by Māori for whāriki (weaving) for hundreds of years. Before this song had lyrics I named the demo ‘Wild Grass’. As I started to write the lyrics I saw that it was a communication, I was being told the things I needed to hear and it was being woven into a song. I think because of how mysterious this song is to me, it’s my favorite on the album.

The clip for my new song Harakeke stars two extremely talented Māori performers who are also based in Naarm, Melbourne. Fallon Te Paa and Breanne Peters are members of T’HONI Kapa Haka, who you might remember from the Being Human video. Fallon’s five year old daughter Iranui makes an appearance in the clip, bringing four generations onto the screen. It echoes the themes of the song, remembering my Mum, Dorothy Urlich-Cloher and her scholarly contribution to Māori tribes in the Far North of New Zealand.”

Cloher’s first album in five years, I Am The River, The River Is Me, was recorded between Aotearoa (NZ) and Naarm (Melbourne) with Producers Tom Healy (Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams), Anika Ostendorf (Hachiku) and Cloher’s longtime drummer Jen Sholakis. The album also brings in artists including Emma Donovan (Gumbaynggirr, Yamatji), Kylie Auldist, Liz Stringer, Te Kaahu (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Tīpā), Ruby Solly (Kai Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) and members of the Naarm-based Kapa Haka, Te Hononga o ngā Iwi. The entire record is meant to feel “communal”, a celebration of “the rich, life-filled communities that surround” Cloher.

The end result of the album paints “a picture of humanity and community as a gorgeous, unfathomable mess” focusing on the “joy of life.”

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