Jen Cloher’s fifth album, I Am the River, the River Is Me, was probably their most personal yet: the record proudly honoured their Māori heritage, marking the first time they included the Māori language in their songwriting.
Cloher (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) has now followed that with Everybody’s Trying to Find Their Way Home, a new podcast series celebrating the unique experiences of Māori and First Nations songwriters who are creating art in their tribal languages.
Over six episodes, the singer-songwriter travels to locations across Australia and Aotearoa that proved to be highly significant to each artist on their journey to reawakening their natural language.
“Finding the confidence to write and perform in my matrilineal language te reo Māori wasn’t easy,” Cloher concedes. “Many of my Mother’s generation never learned due to laws passed by the New Zealand government discouraging the practice of te reo Māori in native schools.
“Consequently, they were made to feel shame about their language, culture and Māori identity, and didn’t want their children to experience the same feeling. Bringing my language back into my body and weaving it through my songwriting has been an enormously healing process.
“I have come home to parts of myself that were longing to be known.The experience made me want to hear from other songwriters, both Māori and First Nations, about their experiences of writing and performing in their language,” Cloher adds.
Cloher also spends time with Emma Donovan (Gumbaynggirr, Yamatji), attends the NZ APRA Te reo Māori Songhubs curated by Bic Runga with Anna Coddington (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa), and learns about Sovereign Language Rematriation with Dr. Lou Bennett (Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung) in the podcast series.