Singer on reo journey releases new waiata

By Jessica Tyson

Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Emily Rice has today released her new single and video for Kanohi ki te kanohi.

The waiata is a futuristic house groove centred on being vulnerable and “seeing ourselves the way we were made to be seen,  is beautiful but not always easy,” Rice says.

Kanohi ki te kanohi translates to mean face-to-face, so we’re playing on that idea in the video capturing the idea of being face to face with yourself, and becoming comfortable with who we really are,” she says.

“We filmed the week before I had our baby girl which was pretty special in that regard, celebrating the beauty of being hapū and the joy of carrying this new little life inside of me - not hiding my pregnant shape, but embracing it.”

Rice says the song came to fruition last year when she was part of a group called Auaha (create) April, a 30-day online challenge that saw people come together with a daily topic to help create and creatively inspire one another.

“I decided to take this challenge to write a song a day for the month using the topics as my starting point. The idea which led to Kanohi ki te kanohi was actually a gorgeous Easter Sunday poem by another member of the group, Emma Howan. I asked if I could make a song with her reflective words, and her response was ‘I’m all for one person's creativity-inspiring another’s’.” 

Te reo journey

Rice says she started integrating te reo Māori into her own waiata after writing songs with her husband Charles five years ago.

“Having married into a Māori whānau especially, that’s kind of where my passion really emerged as to wanting to learn the language. I’m surrounded by it now and as a Kiwi I thought we should all be learning the language but that was the real push for me… So it’s a real honour.”

Rice last year completed studying a level four te reo Māori course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa with her mum.

“I would be doing Ronakitanga now except I had a baby and decided that this year maybe I should just focus on being a mum. So I’ve started to get the hang of structures of sentences. I can’t quite string it together yet and kōrero Māori and that’s something I’m really keen to keep working on of course.”

Kanohi ki te kanohi started as an acoustic song but Rice had it in mind to become more of a song with a dance vibe and old school harmony to it.

Accompanying the single is a video directed and filmed by Beka Hope that interprets the song through the use of mirrors and kaleidoscopes to express both beauty and vulnerability.

Kanohi ki te kanohi follows on from Rice’s previously released tracks, Arise and Over Time -  written during the level four lockdown in 2020. Her new EP, AUAHA, will be a blend of chill DnB-meets-RnB pop, and is due out on May 7.