by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Te KuraHuia

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Te KuraHuia

A full trifecta of grants from NZ On Air Music, Te Māngai Pāho and Creative NZ were put to good use by Te Whanganui-a-Tara artist Te KuraHuia, created dazzling new pieces of music in her breakout EP, ‘Astro-Tīpuna’. Released in January 2024 the EP melds genres and languages into some of the most exciting contemporary music in Te Reo to date. NZ On Air Music featured her single Pretty Gal Club on their NewTracks compilation this April.

What’s your full name, what are your pronouns, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My full name is Te KuraHuia Arikirangi Te Ao Ahoroa o Te Pō Faith Oriwia Henare-Stewart (No, this is not my legal name, I prefer to just be known as my artist name.)

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

When I was in high school I learnt a bit of music, enough to start a band and enter Rockquest in 2015. In 2018, I studied a diploma in Māori performing arts at Te Wānanga Whare Tāpere o Takitimu where I met Jarrod Huirama, who, in his lifetime, inspired me to get into music. I studied Music at the Universal College of Learning in Te Papaioea for two years after that and decided to use my skills and knowledge gained to start my career.

Any other projects that we might know you from?

I recently collaborated with Diaz Grimm and OD on a track titled Poppies from his recently dropped album ‘Māui and The Sin’.

What’s the background story of how you as Te KuraHuia, came to be?

I’ve always been this person, I just needed the knowledge and courage to fully be who I am today. As a child, I dreamed of being a singer/performer. Now I am much more than what I wanted to be.

How did you choose Te KuraHuia as your artist name?

Te KuraHuia is my Māori name which means ‘sacred scarlett albino huia’ known as the rarest and most precious huia before the bird’s extinction! I decided to have my Māori name as my artist name because my Papa blessed me to do so, but I told him that I will one day be Te KuraHuia but for now I am still yet to transform from taniwha to Te KuraHuia which is my sacred celestial being.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I’ve been writing lyrics since I was a child and I can confirm with my chest that I have gotten so much better. I infuse my languages into my lyrics, which I didn’t when I was younger, but I love to do it now. Also, my lyrics make sense today compared to back in the day.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

I have had so many good highlights throughout my career, in my debut year (2022) I was awarded the Emerging Artist Award at the Waiata Māori Music Awards. I got to perform and showcase my music and film in at the Asinabka Media Art and Film Festival in Ottawa and Montreal, Canada. In 2023, I got to close the Mana Wahine showcase at the FIFA Fan Festival at Shed 6 in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. My most recent highlights would be my summer of ’24, performing at multiple events such as Welcome To Nowhere, Cross St Music Festival and Newtown Festival.

My all-time favourite highlight of the summer was performing as Lady Shaka‘s dancer at Splore and WOMAD.

What makes Pretty Gal Club stand out for you as a single?

The fact that I produced it myself amazes me so much that it stands out for me, especially because it’s a genre I never thought I would be able to do. My favourite lyric that I wrote from the song is the first verse, which stands out to me in particular to wanting a song that will help remind me of who I am, and to spark some positive energy.

What is the story behind Pretty Gal Club?

Pretty Gal Club is that positive energy track, set it as your alarm song or play it when you wake up to help you start the day with positive energy. I produced this track long before I knew it was going to be what it ended up being, and if it wasn’t for my friends liking what I created I would not have made PGC. I produced it in my home studio all by myself. 

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Wake up today like Io (creator) thank you for everything
I’m up to slay away all that ino (bad) energy
Feeling okay in the fale (house) of my psyche
Healing in peace this aute pua (hibiscus flower) growing

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

As previously mentioned, positivity.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I actually don’t. I don’t focus on the end product like that, I focus on what makes me dance and if the lyrics are inspiring, touching and/or relatable then to me, I’ve made a track that I can perform. Because to me it’s all real, and I only want to represent it well.

Anyone else in your team?

I’m an independent artist.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I am currently working on an EP with my band Afterparty, we will be performing at this year’s Great Sounds Great in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara this August.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? How did you work it out in the end?

Yes! It was literally having files that exceeded the limit when applying, which I hope NZOA can change on their end as it was such a hassle trying to convert the files down to a smaller size.

Who did you make the video with?

I directed and edited the music video with the help of Hayden Smith (VFX editor), and Michael Potton (DoP). My dearest friend Zody Takurua was my First AD and I invited my friends to be models/dancers for the shoot. Shoutout to Rome Marama, Te Hāmama Hohua, Icey Bradley, Monica Vincent, Hannah Smith, Beyeli Rios.

Any last words?

“If you can’t handle me at my whiro (new moon), then you don’t deserve me at my rākaunui (full moon).” – Te KuraHuia