Reviewed by Madeleine Howard

Ersha Island: Back To Your Roots EP

Reviewed by Madeleine Howard

Ersha Island: Back To Your Roots EP

Tāmaki Makaurau-based duo Ersha Island launched their debut EP ‘Back To Our Roots’ in March.

Ersha Island are Chinese-Kiwi siblings Danielle and Tee Hao-Aickin. ‘Back To Our Roots’ tells the story of the sisters’ struggles with their cultural identities, and their journey to acceptance. The EP is a collection of powerful and emotive tracks in which share vulnerabilities, as they come to terms with their background and begin to embrace their differences.

A cinematic soundscape of six tracks it features elements of pop music and traditional Chinese instruments, as well as lyrics in both English and Mandarin. The result is a poignant, gripping collection of songs.

Production by Edy (Edward Liu) gives the songs a modern edge, while showing off the sisters’ eerie yet pure vocals. The emotions conveyed in each track are compelling, the instrumentation is haunting, and yet the pair sing with a sense of determination and triumph as they share their vulnerable stories.

Setting the scene for an engaging and thought-provoking collection of tracks, the opening is a passage spoken in Mandarin by the duo’s grandfather, in which he explains the legend of the Locust Tree of Hongtong County, important in Chinese culture. 

While ‘Back To Our Roots’ is cohesive and consistent in its overall sound, there is a brief break from the orchestral elements with radio friendly Like The Other Kids, which features Iris Zhang and Geoff Ong on vocals. Though more poppy than its counterparts, with a heavier focus on guitars and a strong pop beat, the song doesn’t feel out of place with the message of the struggle with identity, keeping with the main themes of the EP.

‘Back To Our Roots’ is probably best consumed as a whole, from start to finish. Highlights include Beijing, in which the girls show off their vocal chops, and the finale My Mother’s Mountains and My Father’s Sea, which is a beautiful conclusion to their EP’s story. A fusion of modern pop with traditional Chinese classical music ‘Back To Our Roots’ is a sophisticated and unique body of work.