Rising Aotearoa Sensation Casual Healing Unveils Self-produced Debut Album, Driftwood

  • Rising Aotearoa Sensation Casual Healing Unveils Self-produced Debut Album, <em>Driftwood</em>
Rising Aotearoa Sensation Casual Healing Unveils Self-produced Debut Album, <em>Driftwood</em>

Rising Aotearoa Sensation Casual Healing Unveils Self-produced Debut Album, Driftwood

Driftwood is the debut album by Aotearoa indigenous songwriter Nikau Te Huki, also known as Casual Healing. Soaked with the spiritual and sonic influence of his homeland and self-produced with apex originality, Driftwood tells the story of a young man’s journey to freedom.

Driftwood has washed to your shores today. This wholemeal album represents four years of Nikau’s most personal and intimate recordings compiled into a 12-track collection of soul, folk, hip-hop, dub, trap, R&B and marae-style tracks. With such a wide range of genres, Driftwood is due to resonate with a universal audience.

In October 2023, Casual Healing released ‘Mauri Tau‘, initiating the drip-feed release for Driftwood. ‘Hori House‘ came next in December, followed by ‘Chasing Rainbows‘ in January and most recently ‘Up and Down‘ in March. These tracks have achieved notable success and our independent talent has received high levels of organic attraction, securing multiple positions on the NZ Official Hot Singles chart and garnering substantial airplay on radio and various Spotify editorial playlists including Fresh Finds AU/NZ, Waiata Reo Māori, Dinner Mood, R&B Feels, and Apple Music’s New Music Daily, Late Night Menu, ALT-R&B, R&B Now, Glow and The Sound.

With each new single drop from his upcoming album, Driftwood, Pōneke artist Nikau Te Huki, aka Casual Healing, shows off more of his effortless and unique style. ‘Mauri Tau’ was a watery, soulful ballad sung in te reo Māori, ‘Hori House’ experimented with saxophone and funk tones, and ‘Chasing Rainbows’ indulged in tender spoken-word balladry. His latest ‘Up & Down‘ is a sun-soaked blast of roots and reggae, hinting at even deeper depths to come from this talented artist.

Haere Mai’, e nga iwi, haere mai. Welcome, to all the people of all the tribes of every nation. Welcome to this oasis of sound.

We begin our story with a timeless waiata māori, a song of warm and peaceful welcoming. Close your eyes and be transported to a peaceful marae.

Nikau Te Huki and roots Queen Sophie Cooper put their flag beside Fat Freddy’s with ‘Aotearoa’, a reggae, r&b, neo-soul love letter to the motherland. This track is an ode to the generations past, present and future of Aotearoa.

Up and Down’ is an upbeat, melancholic anthem taking us through the highs and lows of the human experience. Nikau refers to this track as his “golden child”, sharing a flawless and robust message to remind humanity that hitting rock bottom and reaching new heights are all part of our human pilgrimage.

Up and Down’ is a great example of Casual Healing’s signature production style. The original sound of Casual Healing is tastefully paired with Te Huki’s boyish charisma and the message is carried by the power of meaningful lyrics that sprout from an artist with strong character.

Brilliantly captured by Mason Rudd, Kerry Pulham and Francesca Sewell, the accompanying music video walks us through these ‘up and down’ concepts in a retro broadcast style with delicious contrasting visuals.

Now, let’s pick up the vibe with ‘Hori House’. Dance, laugh, sing! Whether the title refers to the ghetto home studio where Nikau recorded the song or a strange new genre that he is creating – ‘Hori House’ feels like it’s been our favourite summer tune for decades. Sending the listener directly back in time to their childhood dairy where the lino is too hot to stand on and the ice cream is still $1.50 a scoop.

Have you ever seen a dreadlocked man in a yellow suit dancing like Michael Jackson in a dairy for three minutes?

The music video was shot by Wellington director Mason Rudd, and it is an absolute classic. Talk about cutting down on the budget; this piece of modern art was captured in one take at a classic Kiwi-style dairy.

‘Mauri Tau’ is a Māori phrase meaning ‘Peaceful Energy’, and we can feel the peace in this smooth soul & RnB track. This waiata opens with an intimate introduction of bird song, soft finger snaps and rich vocal harmonies. The track was created from the idea that the only way to move forward is to surrender your soul to the current of life and let the water lead you to your ocean of truth.

The song turns unexpectedly into a tasty motown-style beat, and the groove sets in like a spoon of honey in a milky cup of chai. Sweet, smooth and creamy. Add some saxophone, piano and a healthy dose of cowbell, and you are set to float to the sea on this delicious and timeless te reo Māori track.

Thanks to the graceful support of Te Māngai Pāho, ‘Mauri Tau‘ is accompanied by a dazzling retro-style music video directed by Mason Rudd. The visual accompaniment provides sensational imagery, which gives us a deeper insight into Casual Healing’s artistry, style and hilarious outlook on life. You can expect stunning backdrop performance shots, skater girls in high-end street fashion, Nikau’s best friend Gibby falling off his skateboard at 40km/h, and a whole crew of happy humans doing what they love in the sunny streets of the windy city of Pōneke.

“Men of the world, open your ears; might be some shit that you don’t wanna hear”. In ‘Break The Cycle’, Nikau fuses poetry with trap music, urging men and women to unite. Nikau is 24 years old with two children and a beautiful baby mama, so these songs are living scripture for those learning to raise their children in a household of love – turning away from ancient habits of abuse.

“I wrote ‘Break The Cycle’ when I first broke my lover’s heart. I was young and curious, unaware of the impact my personal desires could have on those around me. I learned that we are all so intricately connected to each other and each other’s actions. I also learned about the intergenerational trauma I hold, the cycle I am destined to break, for my children to live a better life”.

Masterpeace’ is a love letter from Casual Healing to Cleo Sol and Inflo. A moment to acknowledge some of his great inspirations, he offers a reggae/dub version of the modern classic ‘Masterpiece‘ by Sault. This soothing urban contemporary has rasta-gospel feels for days.

Driftwood’ is the centrepiece of the album. Inspired by a great struggle our artist faced as a young man which became a fundamental moment in his life. It’s a Casual Healing take on pop music, a punchy song of hope from a young lionheart to all his brothers and sisters going through their trials. It’s pop, funk and real.

A handwritten memoir, ‘E Hoa’ is a tune for the good old days and fills the listener with warm Sunday nostalgia. ‘E hoa’ instils hope and reassures us – “we’ll find a better way to deal with all the pain”.

Chasing Rainbows’ is a scream for love. A desperate cry to turn away from jealousy and hatred. Triphop is the flavour of our album’s final original.

Our journey ends with ‘One Love’. Recorded in one take, featuring the voices of his tamariki, whanau and extended community under the name of the Hori Choir and accompanied by only his clean electric guitar, Driftwood closes with a respectful nod to an important prophet of our time.

As a true sonic missionary, Nikau Te Huki is creating a “golden-era sound” as part of his mission to heal the world with music. Te Huki is a natural storyteller who inspires us by sharing a perspective of life through an authentic and relatable lens, drawing from a palette of raw emotions and painting a canvas woven from the tapestry of his unique life.

The songs of Casual Healing emphasise life lessons of aroha, peace and unity through powerful lyrical scribe sung upon smooth soulful rhythm. This infusion creates a unique nostalgic vibe, creating a captivating and comforting essence that evokes recollections of moments shared with friends and whānau. Casual Healing’s goal is to create songs that “make people feel like they want to be better people” , drawing inspiration from Bob Marley, who showed us the power of compassion and simplicity.

Driftwood is a masterpiece. Written in a time where art has become a means to monetise and weaponise degrading ideology. Driftwood is the finely tuned testimony of a rainbow child born into these holy times of judgement. Driftwood are 12 faithful disciples. Driftwood is 51 minutes of love, truth and pain. Driftwood is roots, rock, reggae, hip-hop, trip-hop, country, folk, r&b, dub, gospel, house, trap, disco.

Casual Healing will celebrate the release of Driftwood this evening (19th April 2024), hosting a release show at Te Whanganui-a-Tara’s San Fran. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Check out all things Casual Healing below:

Photo credit: Francesca Sewell