Is Lorde Maori? NZ singer's mini-album sparks ethnicity debate

Olivia Olphin September 10, 2021
Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

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Lorde has just dropped a mini-album of Solar Power covers in the Te Reo Maori language. She has opened up about how the New Zealand principles of care for the planet and the connection to the natural world come from the Maori tradition and are indebted to their culture. This has made many fans wonder if Lorde has any Maori heritage. We tell you everything you need to know.

Solar Power singer drops EP in Maori language

Lorde has just released an EP of five of her Solar Power songs recorded in the Maori language of Te Reo.

The album is called Te Ao Marama, which translates to “world of light”, and has been released to coincide with New Zealand’s Maori language week.

The Maori people are the indigenous people of New Zealand, originally settling in the country after waka, or canoeing, voyages from East Polynesia between 1320 and 1350.

In the album the Green Light singer covers her own tracks including Solar Power, Stoned At The Nail Salon and Oceanic Feeling.

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Is Lorde Maori?

Lorde does not have Maori heritage, her ethnicity is a mixture of both Croatian and Irish. Her mother, poet Sonja Yelich, is from Dalmatia, Croatia, and her father, civil engineer Vic O’Connor, was born in New Zealand but has Irish heritage.

Lorde has dual New Zealand and Croatian citizenship, and has previously stated that she has Serbian ancestry on her mother’s side.

Lorde has said about her connection to the Maori people:

“I’m not Māori, but all New Zealanders grow up with elements of this worldview. Te ao Māori and tikanga Māori are a big part of why people who aren’t from here intuit our country to be kind of ‘magical,’ I think. I know I’m someone who represents New Zealand globally in a way, and in making an album about where I’m from, it was important to me to be able to say: this makes us who we are down here.”

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Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

Does Lorde speak Maori?

Lorde does not speak the Maori language of Te Reo, however, she worked closely with translators such as Hana Mereraiha and Hemi Kelly in order to recreate her own songs in Te Reo.

Lorde also spent some time with Sir Timoti Karetu, who was the former commissioner of the Maori Language Commission in New Zealand. She also recently opened up about the connection that her country has to nature and the planet:

“Many things revealed themselves slowly to me while I was making this album, but the main realization by far was that much of my value system around caring for and listening to the natural world comes from traditional Māori principles. There’s a word for it in te reo: kaitiakitanga, meaning ‘guardianship or caregiving for the sky, sea, and land.’”

Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images for G.H. Mumm

These songs are a glimpse into the culture of the Maori people and the deep respect that they have for the land, and the symbiotic relationship that humans have with nature.

We can’t wait to listen to these songs on repeat!

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Olivia Olphin is an English Literature graduate and a film and literature fanatic. She has many years of reviewing experience, recently working as accredited press for the London Film Festival. She has also written widely about culture and sex education, as well as LGBTQ+ and women's issues.