IA's new waiata speaks to the modern Māori stripping away colonial baggage

By Jessica Tyson

Māori music collective IA, known for incorporating taonga pūoro in its music, has released a new single, Ruia Taitea, inspired by the art of carving.

Lead singer Reti Hedley says the song draws on metaphors used in carving that describe a carver's ability to bring out pieces they are trying to create within rākau (wood).

"We have related this to how we all have a beauty, a mauri, a mana inside of us that sometimes isn't always seen by others and even ourselves. It's up to us to strip away the bark, so we can see our own worth,” Hedley says.

Hedley says the waiata speaks to the modern Māori who is still in the process of decolonising intergenerational self-worth and cultural degradation.

IA's new waiata inspired by the art of carving.

“As we rediscover ourselves as Māori in the modern world, we have to strip away some of the colonial baggage."

As part of the song release, IA filmed a video clip performing the waiata live on Mount Ruapehu. The maunga has special significance as Hedley’s whakapapa and the proverb which inspired this waiata comes from Ngāti Tūwharetoa the land of Ruapehu Maunga.

“The particular whakatauki (proverb) referenced in this waiata is 'Ruia Te Taitea, Ka Tu Taikaka' strip away the bark to reveal the heart within,” Hedley says.

Member Moetu Smith says filming on Ruapehu was an amazing experience, especially being "in nature in its purest form".

"When we were on top of that maunga it was just us and a few other of the workers that were up there. We felt so small, you feel so small in the bigness of the maunga and it’s just a beautiful and amazing experience to be up there.”

The Waikato-based band, including members Hedley, Smith and Turoa Pohatu, is dedicated to showcasing taonga pūoro and te reo Māori in its music.

The release of Ruia Taitea follows hot on the heels of Silver Scroll Awards and Going Global performances from the band. Its song Te Aho Tapu was part of Waiata Anthems Week and charted on the New Zealand Te Reo and Alternative Charts.

Hedley says, “Te Aho Tapu and this waiata have been a really inspiring experience in that we have had the opportunity to compose and write music about our own arts in Aotearoa and try to bring those aspects of toi Māori together – Te Aho Tapu being about the art of weaving and the sacred spreads.”

Both tracks feature on IA's forthcoming EP, The Art Of, which will be released on February 23, 2023.