Māori metal band Alien Weaponry slams New Zealand's 'rampant racism' in Guardian interview

Māori metal trio Alien Weaponry have condemned the "racism and racial bias" they say is "rampant" in New Zealand in an emotive interview with The Guardian

The band is made up of Waipu brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong on drums and vocals/guitar respectively, with Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds on bass.

Alien Weaponry has made international waves with its high-energy groove metal tracks, sung in te reo Māori and sometimes sampling the words of New Zealand politicians like Don Brash. 

Speaking with The Guardian, drummer Henry explained that the future of Te Reo continued to hang in the balance as it "wasn't spoken enough" in Aotearoa, fuelling the band's mission to "fight for the language to be revived or it's gonna die". 

His brother Lewis echoed these sentiments, declaring: "Māori aren't treated the same as others in New Zealand and, until that changes, we're not finished."

The siblings, whose songs confront Aotearoa's colonisation and narrate historical injustices such as Auckland's council burning a Māori village down ahead of Queen Elizabeth's 1952 visit, also discussed ongoing inequality in New Zealand society. 

"Even in the judicial system here, racism's rampant," Henry told The Guardian

"Māori get charged much higher penalties, on average, than other people in New Zealand. There is still racial bias here; people like to act like there isn't, but there certainly is." 

"There's also this hole that society has put a lot of Māori in, where they're in a financial position where one of the few things they can turn to is drugs," he added. 

"They have to join gangs just to survive. There are some wealthy Māori but, when you say Māori, a lot of people think: poor."

Meanwhile, Lewis claimed: "There are quite a few people in parliament actively trying to push through bills that will take away Māori TV," adding: "They see it as special treatment or whatever." 

It's unclear exactly which MPs or policies the musician is referring to, however a 2020 report on the Government's review of the Māori media sector caused upset when it recommended all Māori news be amalgamated into one centralised service at Māori Television, potentially wiping out shows such as TVNZ's Te Karere and Three's The Hui

Despite the struggles to preserve Māori culture and language, Alien Weaponry acknowledged there had been some wins. Lewis recalls playing a Solvenian festival called MetalDays in 2018 - while still in his mid-teens - and being stunned by a huge crowd singing in Te Reo. 

"They were all singing the lyrics in Māori. They hardly even knew English, yet they knew the words to our songs," he said. 

"We've had people from the other side of the world say they're learning Māori or going to study it because of us." 

Henry added that he was optimistic about the direction Te Reo was moving in, praising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for "opening up avenues for Māori to speak more freely". 

"She's solidified more Māori ideologies in Government, while other governments have been very businesslike and 'western'," he said. 

"There's always gonna be this push - and I wanna be a part of this push - to not only keep Māori alive but to let the language and culture thrive. That’s the New Zealand I wanna live in."