Entertainment | Taonga Puoro

Fusing jazz and taonga puoro in Wellington Jazz Festival performance

Photo / Supplied

Wellington-based artist Kirsten Te Rito (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahugnunu, Rongowhakaata) is one of only two artists commissioned to perform at the Wellington Jazz Festival, which runs from October 25–29.

The solo artist, who has two reo Māori albums, is taking the opportunity to release a new song titled Māreikura which talks about wāhine Māori atua and the fusion of jazz and taonga puoro (Māori instruments), working alongside taonga puoro composer Jerome Kavanagh.

“What I wanted to know is what note the taonga puoro could play, that I could arrange music around [Jerome’s] instruments rather than add them as a layer on top,”

“I want [listeners] to feel uplifted and also maybe see taonga puoro in more of a contemporary sense, that it can be inside jazz music.

“I’m not really composing music like old school jazz, it’s not Louis Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald kind of stuff. It’s synth-based, beat-based, but with the improvisation in there, which I think taonga puoro really lends itself pretty well to.”

Though she has released two albums and multiple singles in te reo Māori, Te Rito admits she hasn’t quite completed her reo Māori journey yet. But she wants to finish it in the future.

“I have a lot of anxiety around it. That’s another reason I try to write my music in te reo Māori because it gives me an opportunity to at least have that connection. But I see it as a long journey.

“I have plans to move back to Māhia, my Rongomaiwahine roots, so I’m hoping that it will come then when I’m in the place and I’m around the people.”

With another album being worked on since the start of lockdowns in 2020, Kirsten Te Rito closes out the Wellington Jazz Festival on October 29 in the capital.

Public Interest Journalism