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Stan Walker Celebrates Māori Culture in Song for Hollywood Film

The Aotearoa star has created an original track for the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker’s new film, ‘Origin’, coming to NEON in early 2024

Stan Walker

Damien Nikora

Stan Walker has taken Māori pride to Hollywood with an Oscar-worthy song.

The iconic Aotearoa artist has contributed an original song to Ava DuVernay’s upcoming film, Origin, scheduled for an early 2024 release on NEON. The single, titled “I AM”, was unveiled at a glamorous premiere on the renowned US talk show CBS Mornings with Gayle King.

So, how did the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker discover Stan Walker? The tale goes that she stumbled upon his rendition of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam”, marvelling at his singing talent. DuVernay then slid into Stan’s DMs inviting him to create an original song for her upcoming film.

Ava shared, “My collaboration with Stan on ‘I AM’ has been a gift to the film Origin and to me personally. That voice, that vibe, that verve? It’s real. And sincere. And sensational. I can’t wait to share his song with the world.” 

“I AM” was brought to life with the expertise of Vince Harder, Te Kanapu Anasta, and Grammy-nominated Michael Fatkin, who also produced the song. It’s described as a “declaration of ownership and reclamation of one’s identity,” with Walker emphasising the significance of understanding our whakapapa (lineage) and origins.

“‘I AM’ is a declaration, not just who I am, but a declaration for anybody who has ever felt like they don’t know who they are,” he says. “Everyone has a different story, and some people are ashamed because their cultures have been attached to negative things. I have lived that life but that is not what our culture is.

“The negative outcomes are the result of intergenerational trauma caused by the suppression of our cultural identity and expression, but that is not who we are. Māori society in its purest form is aroha (love) and we have protocols for everything to show respect.

“We have protocols for walking in the house, how we prepare our kai (food) and who prepares our kai, and we never take more from the land and sea than we need. For me, ‘I AM’ is an affirmation that it’s never too late to take ownership of your identity and reconnect to your roots.”

The music video, co-directed by Walker and long-time collaborator Shae Sterling, captures the essence of the artist’s pride in his Māori heritage. Shot across various locations in Aotearoa, it promises to be a visual testament to the artist’s cultural roots.

Origin, inspired by Isabel Wilkerson’s book, explores history’s mysteries and human resilience. “I AM” is the title track for Stan’s EP, dropping early 2024. Save the date for ‘ORIGIN’ on NEON, January 19th, 2024.

Stan Walker’s “I AM” is out now.