Alternative pop musician Theia AKA Em-Haley Walker is a fierce proponent of the revitalisation of Māori language and culture.
Her TE KAAHU project honours the craft of Māori songwriting and storytelling and debut album Te Kaahu O Rangi was met with critical acclaim when it was released in 2022.
Theia has a big year ahead - in the next few months she'll be performing at WOMAD, Camp A Lo Hum and the Auckland Art Festival.
The Theia and TE KAAHU personas reflect different energies, she tells Summer Times.
“I am Theia, who is speaking to you now. And the music that I make as Theia is I would describe it as kind of alt pop or riot pop. Quite angry, political.
“It's smart songwriting, I would say the pop aspect is really catchy hooks. However, the alternative aspect is that the production is often quite experimental.”
She has recently returned from the US where she performed at LA Pride as Theia.
“Themes that I discuss and that I enjoy writing about, are definitely to do with I guess, politics, my experience growing up in quite a religious household and how me now being more grown-up and very proud and queer, how those things can kind of sometimes come to heads with each other.”
TE KAAHU is a project entirely in te reo Māori and honours her grandmother, she says.
“And kind of serves as a way to honour my female ancestors, but also, I suppose, a way of writing songs that are specific to my iwi and hapu, my tribe and my sub-tribe, that holds Mātauranga or knowledge.
“And that can kind of be like a way of rangatahi or young people, or my siblings, helping them in their journeys of reconnection.
“And of course, also for our nannies, or people that do speak that te reo Māori, giving them access to waiata that maybe aren't just, pop songs in reo Māori, but that that kind of feel a little bit more old school and definitely inspired by the music that my nannies listen to.
“So, it's more like ‘50s ‘60s do woppy - really soulful production.“