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Song You Need to Know: Byllie-jean ft. Marlon Williams, ‘E Moko’

Williams lends vocals to a single taken from Ōtautahi singer-songwriter Byllie-jean’s captivating debut EP



Byllie-jean, a multi-disciplinary Māori artist, released her captivating debut EP, Filter, last week.

Based in Ōtautahi, she recently co-won the 2022 Maioha Award, which celebrates te reo waiata excellence at the Silver Scrolls. Collaborating with artists like Marlon Williams, she’s becoming a familiar name in music circles down South.

Her debut EP features gorgeously crafted, blending crunchy, watery electronica with bold contrasts and experimental sonic textures. She describes these sounds as reflections of her life as an island dweller, a jungle lover and Indigenous storyteller in her colonised country of Aotearoa.

The track “E Moko” emerges as a standout piece, featuring the talents of Williams and author/poet Isla Huia. This stunning waiata serves as a heartfelt tribute to tīpuna and mokopuna, weaving together traditional taonga puoro sounds with modern electric synth. Williams’ rich tenor adds drama to the ethereal te reo Māori harmonies, promising to send shivers down your spine with its haunting beauty. 

“There’s healing in these songs for me, and stories within stories, they are recorded snapshots of moments in time – lots of blood and water and bush and memory and suburbia,” says Byllie-jean. 

“This collection of completed songs was grown and documented from a friendship come recording project with producer Chris Wethey; we would met each Thursday and a sound soon emerged that was acoustic and clean as well as electronically muddy and hard-hitting due to my partiality to 808s.” 

The artist’s EP has been in the works for the last two to three years from Byllie-jean (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Ngāti Pahauwera). 

As well as the title track, it includes earlier singles like “Desperate Fools” (2023), a chilling noir ballad; the rhythmic “Running Amuck” (2023), tackling Māori land loss; and “Heck” (2021), which Byllie-jean describes as a “hip hop fairytale.” There’s also the interlude “Korimako” featuring Pōneke/Wellington R&B artist AJA.

Byllie-jean’s Filter is out now.