Maisey Rika releases new album inspired by Matariki stars

By Jessica Tyson

Te Whānau-a-Apanui singer Maisey Rika is about to release a new album inspired by the stars of Matariki.

What started out as one song about Matariki turned into a collection of nine waiata that Rika wrote over lockdown to create the album, Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea.

“Over lockdown, I had time to actually delve into some more waiata. So I did Waitī, Waitā, and then Matariki Tāpuapua about Rangi, Waipunarangi. Then I thought I’m just going to carry on."

The stars of Matariki in video clip Matariki i te pō / Photo - Maisey Rika

Mātauranga from Professor Rangi Matamua

As Rika wrote the songs during the lockdown she talked to Māori astronomer Professor Rangi Matamua about the ancient stories of Matariki and new kupu to use to depict the stories.

Dr Matamua taught Rika that there are nine stars of Matariki, not the seven she already knew about. The two new stars learned about were Hiwaiterangi and Pōhutukawa.

“When I heard Hiwa is to do with wishes and Pōhutukawa is kawe i ngā mate I thought, with this video, I would like to mention them hard since they haven’t had much of a mention.”

One of the whetū, stars in video clip Matariki i te pō / Photo - Maisey Rika / Photo - Maisey Rika

Ngā uri whakatipu

Rika wanted to connect the waiata about the stars and gods to what's happening to “Ngā uri whakatipu, what’s happening on the ground” to people in Aotearoa.

“While the time of writing Matariki i te pō our young māmā in Hawke’s Bay was getting her baby taken away from her and when I heard Matariki is the mum of all these gifted children I thought I’m going to try tohonour that. It’s time to get our children back,” Rika says.

The waiata also touched on whakamomori (suicide), homelessness, and three wishes.

“What would we wish for a mother who’s had her child taken? What would she be wishing for, her child back? What would a boy who has lost achild to suicide, what would he be wishing for?"

The album also features Tāwhirimātea, the God of the Storms.

“I really had a mind-blowing experience when I found out Tāwhirimātea was blind. He can’t see us, we can’t see him. We feel him. That’s like a lot of our people. We just see the storm sometimes but there’s always a reason and the reason for Tāwhiri was because his whānau was ripped apart, says Rika.

“I was having these little epiphanies and wanted to try and encapsulate that all, in a mana way though, in a tasteful way that we can move from this into the light.”

Māori producers

Rika also called upon the unique musical talents of Māori producers to bring the stars to life, including Tiki Tane, Seth Haapu, Horomona Horo, Mara TK and Anna Coddington. This was new for Rika since she’s only worked with one producer for the past 12 years.

“I need to get over my own sound. It not about me it’s about, who can bring out these stars, who can bring out these gods, who can bring out these kaupapa.”

Rika says Taane helped her create waiata for Waipuanarangi, Ururangi and Tāwhirimātea.

“There was no one else I could go to. It was Tiki, the first person I could think of.”

Rika had the help of Haapu to produce the waiata for the water stars Waitī, Waitā, Tupuānuku and Tupuārangi.

“I had to go to the ones who could bring out these elements that I trusted could bring them out, and they did. They so did, and I’m so grateful for all their pūkenga, their expertise.”

The album Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea is expected to be released this Friday, July 17 on all music platforms.