Bilingual Duo Aro Perfectly Meld Voices and Delicate Harmonies for ‘Tōtara’

  • Bilingual Duo Aro Perfectly Meld Voices and Delicate Harmonies for ‘Tōtara’
Bilingual Duo Aro Perfectly Meld Voices and Delicate Harmonies for ‘Tōtara’

Bilingual Duo Aro Perfectly Meld Voices and Delicate Harmonies for ‘Tōtara’

“Kua hinga he tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne” | “A great tree (person of significance) has fallen (passed) in the great forest of Tāne (in this world)”.

Tōtara’, originally taking its inspiration from the above whakatauki, has become a song of aroha, grief and remembrance – a song of aroha for those significant and special people, who are no longer with us. Aro’s latest single, ‘Tōtara’ releases today and is followed by the release of their forthcoming album, He Rākau, He Ngārara on April 19th.

Multi-award nominees, bilingual Duo, Aro, consists of Tāmaki Makaurau based husband and wife, Charles (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Ata, Ngāti Mutunga) and Emily Looker. The pair’s music expertly blends Emily’s honey-voiced jazz with Charles’ full throated percussive sound, with shades of haka. Well known for their multi-genre offering of music and storytelling, with their performances combining a warmth of experience, wholly original music, anchored in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Creation of the duo’s fourth album, He Rākau, He Ngārara, involved researching mātauranga Māori in legends and whakatauki, from the writer’s iwi and hapū, about Aotearoa’s native trees (rākau) and native insects and reptiles (ngārara). The extensive research into each of the waiata that make up the album, led Aro to spend time with Zane Wedding (Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Pikiao) – a tree expert and an activist who’s whakapapa deeply connects him to our native trees. Via Zane they were able to understand why the Tōtara is specified as the symbol of someone of great significance.

“We learnt that the tōtara grows straight and strong for hundreds of years, becoming a canopy for many living things who depend on it. The nature of its growth however makes it prone to snapping, but another branch grows back even stronger. When it finally falls, it remains dependable, becoming a waka, and in other cases, becoming the symbol of a taniwha, a kaitiaki of the river that caught it. This is the measure of significance that is considered when referring to someone as a tōtara – dependable, caring, resilient, tenacious – all the qualities that can be drawn from the legacy of the tōtara, and just like the tōtara, they live on – in our hearts, in our memories, and in our stories.”

The single is also accompanied by an expertly shot and perfectly captured video clip, from the award winning film team at APC Films, led by producers and directors, Ryan Bradley & Hattie Adams (Nominated for Producing / Directing in Wairoa Maori Film Festival , Vision Feast Film Festival and Los Angeles Music Video Festival). Working alongside Ryan & Hattie for this video is Producer, Summer Vaha’akolo ( Winner of NZ On Air Best Pacific Music Video at 2022 Pacific Music Awards) and doing Makeup / Costume Design is Amanda Ashton, ( Winner of New Zealand Television Award for Make Up Design 2022). APC Films are no strangers to Aro’s musical beauty, having worked with them on the video clips for singles, Tauhou and Tohorā, this talented team explore with care, texture and visual artistry, the prowess of the mighty ‘Tōtara’, perfectly capturing its essence.

It’s been a huge few years for Aro, successfully releasing in November 2023, their single ‘Mokomoko‘, the first waiata from their forthcoming album, to great reviews! Preceded by becoming finalists (top 20) for the 2023 Silver Scroll Awards, after having been finalists for the Maioha Award at the Silver Scrolls (2019). They were also finalists at for the APRA Best Children’s Song Award for their waiata ‘Korimako‘ (2020) and ‘Kia Mau‘ (2023), and as finalists for Best Māori Group at the Waiata Māori Music Awards (2022).

Tōtara’, a deeply moving ballad, holds a special place in Emily & Charles’s hearts, with the pair dedicating the song to their Aunty Kathy – who passed at the end of 2021, who we miss dearly. We remember the way she loved, a queen of hospitality!

Check out all things Aro below:

Photo credit: Tom Grut