Seth Haapu: New album Whai Ora a celebration of te ao Māori and reconnection

  • 18/07/2023
"There's quite a lot of collective mana on the record".
"There's quite a lot of collective mana on the record". Photo credit: Supplied

By Riria Dalton-Reedy, Te Rito journalism cadet 

Award-winning artist and producer Seth Haapu's new album explores themes of healing and reconnection.

And the pathway to well-being, says Haapu, lies within Māori culture.

Haapu has released his new album titled Whai Ora - a collection of 10 tracks that resonate with te reo, soulful melodies and taonga puoro (traditional instruments) fusion.

The Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Atihaunui a Pāpārangi and Huahine (Tahiti) descendent describes Whai Ora's decade-long journey as "empowering" and "enriching".

He says the inspiration came from "being Māori and celebrating our wonderful, beautiful way of wellbeing".

"Our relationships with each other, with the taiao (environment), with our tinana (bodies), with our spirituality (wairua).

"When we are well, there is balance and interconnectedness".

The journey went beyond Aotearoa shores, reconnecting Haapu to his Tahitian roots during a recent trip.

"It was an incredibly eye-opening and beautiful experience - to stand on the shores and imagine the dreams of our tupuna (ancestors) being realised today," he says.

Haapu highlights music as a form of healing.

"It is our way to express ourselves, it is who we are".

He acknowledges talented creatives and reo exponents such as Maisey Rika and Sir Timoti Kāretu who have contributed their expertise to Whai Ora.

"There's quite a lot of collective mana on the record," he says.

"Being able to share and support each other, I think you can really hear that in the songs."

The album was recorded during the national Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020.

Haapu built a small home studio to record his tracks, before honing them for release.

"It was an opportunity to think of new inventive ways to record," he says.

"The new songs are a reflection of my indigenous voice and our ways of belonging and knowing in the world."

The album release also coincides with Matariki - the Maori New Year.

Haapu says Matariki is an opportunity to reflect on and honour those who have gone before us, whilst also planning a prosperous future.

"Matariki - huarahi ki te oranga tangata' (Matariki - pathway to the wellbeing of people).

"I think this is an incentive for us to think about what's going to keep us well.

"It's another beautiful celebration of that re-emergence, the restoration, the re-awakening of who we are."

The journey to Whai Ora is not only heard in the music but reflected in Haapu's physical appearance.

As the album grew, so did his hair.

"Part of my [journey] was reconnecting with the indigenous matauranga (knowledge) around our makawe (hair) and being sacred as an extension to our head," he says.

"This makawe (hair) you see is part of the journey of the album".

Haapu, who is also studying towards a doctorate in psychology, draws on this knowledge to add insight to the album.

"What has really stood out for me with my studies in matai hinengaro (psychology) is that the answers [to wellbeing] are actually in our culture," he says.

"I believe it's all within te ao Māori, it's all in the balance of our relationships with the world around us within ourselves that brings oranga (life)."

Whai Ora is available to stream on all platforms now.

Seth Haapu: New album Whai Ora a celebration of te ao Māori and reconnection