New Zealand metal band Alien Weaponry is releasing its second album on Friday with half of the songs in te reo Māori.
The release of the album will be followed by a new music video for Hatupatu, a song based on the story of the band’s Te Arawa ancestor, Hatupatu, and his escape from the fearsome bird-woman Kurangaituku.
Many New Zealand acts have released new music this week as part of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. However, the release date for Tangaora wasn’t planned around this week, or even around the month of Mahuru Māori.
“It’s pretty cool that it has worked out this way, but the album release was actually planned to coincide with our international schedule, as we are touring the USA with Gojira in October and November,” lead singer and guitarist Lewis de Jong, of Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Raukawa, says.
Having released its first album, Tū, in June 2018 and toured overseas for much of 2018 and 2019, the band has observed a huge change in how te reo Māori is being used and received in New Zealand music and the media in the intervening three years.
Drummer Henry de Jong, of Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Raukawa, says, “When we released Tū, it was definitely unusual to have songs in te reo Māori, and we were really nervous about how it would be received.
“This time, with so many mainstream artists translating their music into te reo Māori, it almost seems as though English songs are in the minority.”
While the Māori voice in Aotearoa is growing strong, Alien Weaponry has also found that there is nothing to be feared from releasing its music in te reo Māori across the globe.
Kai Tangata, the biggest hit off Tū, is a seven-minute anthem entirely in te reo Māori, with millions of streams on Spotify and 12 million views on YouTube.
Some fans have questioned why Alien Weaponry appear to have been excluded from initiatives like the Waiata Anthems project, but there is a simple explanation, Henry says.
“Waiata Anthems was set up as a platform to create te reo Māori versions of popular English songs. And since our songs are already in te reo Māori, we just don’t fit that format.”
Lewis says, “People have suggested we translate some of our English songs, but for us the language we use in our songs is part of the emotion and ideas we are trying to express, and we feel fortunate to be able to make that choice ourselves.
While the band has a huge international fan base – they were called "the future of metal" by UK-based Metal Hammer magazine and their music is played regularly on stations like Sirius XM across the USA, it has yet to feel the love from local mainstream radio.
“We’ve always had great support from Radio NZ, iwi and student stations, but with the groundswell of support for te reo Māori from just about every other part of the NZ music and entertainment industry, we’re hoping this year will be the year that even the big rock stations in NZ will turn a corner and playlist our Māori songs. Mahuru Māori would be a great time to start,” Henry says.