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Nothing Typical about Mara TK

Photo: Jessie-Lee Robertson.
Photo: Jessie-Lee Robertson.
Photo: Jessie-Lee Robertson.
He's got followers the world over, but talented Māori musician Mara TK prefers to keep it low-key - and explains why weird works for him.

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Mara TK doesn’t just dare to be different - he lives for it.

His uniqueness as a musician is part of what defines him - and ironically makes him hard to define.

He doesn’t fit the bill of what many assume when they think Māori musician. That notion is driven largely by the bevy of highly talented singer-songwriters with a guitar in hand.

But just because he’s not what you’d expect, it doesn’t mean Mara TK doesn’t have that same sense of pride. “I see myself as a Māori artist first and foremost. The reason being that I wouldn’t ever be able to separate these intrinsic values and ways of looking at the world that came from my old man and mum, even if I tried. 

“I also like the idea of saying I am a Māori musician or Māori artist and try do some weird shit after that,” he laughs.

It’s that approach that’s turning Friday’s (9 July) open air music event Te Korakora on Takutai into an eye opener as part of Auckland’s Matariki Festival.

An established staple in recent years in Auckland, this year’s free CBD event focuses less on the recognised Māori artists who have performed previously and more on showcasing the full spectrum of Māori musicality.

Wellington-based Mara TK puts that down to the man organising the line up - Auckland Council’s Gene Rivers. 

“Gene’s earned a reputation for putting more obscure artists on the bill, people who are a little more left of field. This is one of the only shows I”ll be doing for Auckland for a while and the first one I’ve done for a long time. For someone like Gene, I’ll do it, he values what we do.”

DJ Spell. Photo: Supplied.

Rivers has put together an eclectic line-up, with the exceptional Ria Hall the best-known name. DJ Spells has a strong reputation in the international hip hop community and will bring his special brand of music together with South Auckland MCs Ranui Marz, Dirty and Paki, while La Coco blends Māori and Pasifika styles. 

“This line up is challenging the way not only New Zealanders but Māori view Māori musicians in the contemporary context,” Rivers says. “Ria is the bridge to that world of what is preconceived, but she straddles both worlds, which will help introduce audiences to artists who sit more of the fringe, wider of the spectrum.”

Ria Hall. Photo: Supplied.

Mara TK’s excited to be part of such a broad event - and is excited for what the future holds for Māori musicians.

“I feel like my generation had a station wagon worth of baggage and this next generation has like a 7kg carry-on bag’s worth. They’re a bit more freed up.

“I feel like we’re going to see that type of musician or producer come out who just opens up the whole range of what you can be. I’m excited for them man, and in the meantime I’ll be on stage in some swimming trunks, make up, some weird clothes or something. 

“That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning - how weird can we be - at the same time, how much do I know about our own mythology, gods, karakia and traditional songs to try and put that in some of the stuff we’re trying to do today.” 

Mara TK. Photo: Jessie-Lee Robertson.

His debut solo album Bad Meditation has been receiving rave reviews, but many in the industry feel he’s better appreciated overseas than he is on our shores.  

After touring internationally as frontman for Electric Wire Hustle, Mara TK’s blown away by how his sounds have reached the far corners of the earth.

“We had some real fans in Poland, enough to fill up a couple of clubs, we played in the Czech republic, there were proper fans in Scandinavia, South Korea..

“I get messages from people in the most random spots. A Palestinian radio show got in touch with me a couple of weeks ago and I did an interview with them.

“We’re back on BBC radio - I was trying to think about the last song that might have been in te reo on BBC, was it Hinewehi Mohi, was it Poi E? That was an awesome feeling.”

Given he’s more inclined to hide out in his studio than “fire up the machine” and head on the road, Friday is a unique opportunity to experience the uniqueness of Mara TK in person, and maybe expand your horizon.

One thing’s been promised - his outfit will be out there.

 

Written in partnership with Matariki Festival 2021, supported by Auckland Council. Te Korakora on Takutai is a free event at Takutai Square in the CBD on Friday 9 July, 5-10pm. Click here for details. 

 
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