2 Nov 2022

Amplified | Episode 1 | Kōtiro

From Amplified, 6:00 am on 2 November 2022

Series Classification: PG (Contains Strong Language)

By Breanna Tugaga-Rogers

Jess sits down with Māori Jewish talent Ana Chaya Scotney to discuss her thrilling debut album, dawn ocean swimming, and how she creates her singular “high lonesome sound”.

Kōtiro is the musical project of Ana Chaya Scotney, a Māori-Jewish multidisciplinary artist who is most known for her mahi as a rising actress.

Ana uses music as a vehicle for exploration and reconnection. As a way to traverse the differing worlds of cultures that bind her, and to navigate the complexities of time, place and belonging in Aotearoa today.

Kōtiro is the musical project of Ana Chaya Scotney.

Kōtiro is the musical project of Ana Chaya Scotney. Photo: Vetiver Pictures - Tom Denize

“I like that music is an outlet which can be pure exploration. Nostalgia is a really important theme. Things that are based on memories or experiences that come from the old word as I imagine it.”

Ana released her debut EP High-Def Multinational last year. Co-produced by Thomas Arbor, the EP is full of alluring, soul-shaking melodies you can hear throughout the episode, as we watch the smiling Ana talk about the influences behind her musical craft.

“[I really like] figuring out how we can use contemporary technology to bring forward sounds that are inspired by Te Urewera, by the experience of being in places that really put our smallness, our youth as a species into perspective.”

Born and based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington), Ana grew up in the western city suburb of Karori with her mum, while her dad lived in Te Urewera, the ancestral home of Tūhoe. From a young age, Ana learned how to navigate the best of both worlds, a skill many of us who are mixed understand all too well.

“I kind of had this split personality where on the side of my mum I spent lots of time by myself which I think is where the creative vibes originated from. But then I also got to Te Urewera and spent half the time up there with my dad, my stepmom, my younger brother and sister and then our extended whānau too.”

Ana Chaya Scotney with collaborator Thomas Arbor in Thomas' studio.

Ana Chaya Scotney with collaborator Thomas Arbor in Thomas' studio. Photo: Vetiver Pictures - Tom Denize

There is a certain beauty in the complexity of those who are mixed. We are somewhat the masters of duality, with our ancestral lines appearing as a web of connections, extending to places that can be so different from one another.

Art is the perfect outlet to explore and understand these complicated layers of identity and culture.

“Identity is the theme that comes in through all my mahi. It might come back to that point of origin, going between- like being from Wellington and from Te Urewera, and then having that extended connection to a Jewish whakapapa and being with that diaspora but not knowing heaps about that lineage.”

Her mum’s roots extend back to Germany, where Ana’s grandmother who was of German-Jewish descent, left Berlin just before the Holocaust took hold.

Ana says that her middle name Chaya is the feminine version of the Jewish word for ‘to life’, and the masculine version is l’chaim. Ana’s joy is quite contagious. One cannot help but smile as she has fun discussing her whakapapa, yelling l’chaim while pulling out ‘rock out’ hand gestures.

Ana tells us her first name translates to ‘cave’ in te reo Māori, and that she’s named after her dad’s kuia, her nanny.

Ana’s dad, whose Ngāi Tūhoe, passed away when she was only nineteen.

The word Kōtiro was his nickname for her.

Ana Chaya Scotney singing

Ana Chaya Scotney singing Photo: Vetiver Pictures - Tom Denize

“I think that there’s a cheekiness to the syllables in that word, Kō-ti-ro, just feels like the right energy or tone to be earnest and also have an irreverence at the same time.”

The thing I most appreciate about this musical project is the experimentation of sounds, the embrace of trial and error that allows Kōtiro to create something beautiful and authentic, all while pulling from the worlds that make Ana who she is.

“[I feel inspired by] sampling things like the sound of my dad, finding a way of bringing in that high lonesome sound, which is a hark I guess to the maunga, and the feeling of stillness being in Te Urewera.”

The multidisciplinary artist says that because she’s trained in acting, having played big roles in films like Cousins and Millie Lies Low, that there’s a lot more pressure that comes with that craft.

Ana Chaya Scotney

Ana Chaya Scotney Photo: Vetiver Pictures - Tom Denize

Music, however, is different.

“For me, it’s just like radically self-published DIY. You’re not stressed so much about getting it right or wrong.”

The episode is directed by Ana’s Cousins co-star Tioreore Ngātai-Melbourne, with the pair even revisiting their drama school Toi Whakaari during the episode.

The episode finishes with a stunning live performance by Kōtiro, showing off Ana’s extensive vocal and performance abilities.

One thing’s for sure, Ana Chaya Scotney’s talents knows no bounds.

Director: Tioreore Ngātai-Melbourne

Kōtiro episode director Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne.

Kōtiro episode director Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne. Photo: Vetiver Pictures - Tom Denize

Tioreore Ngātai-Melbourne (@tioreorem) is an actor and director from Ngāti Porou and Tūhoe. Her acting credits include We Are Still Here, Cousins and Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

In addition to acting, in 2021 Ngātai-Melbourne produced, wrote and directed her debut short-film E Rangi Rā based on a true story from her own whakapapa, which went on to screen at Māoriland Film Festival in 2022.

NZ On Air

NZ On Air Photo: NZOA