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Aro - EP Review: He Manu Ano

28 Aug 2020 // A review by Isla Norman
Arare a husband and wife duo who share a passion for the power of language and music to tell stories and remind us of our cultural identity. In celebration of Aotearoa’s magical wildlife, Aro have released a five track EP inspired by native birds. The pair spent time researching the stories of each manu, capturing their spirit and sound in five playful waiata. He Manu Ano is a tribute to our awe inspiring country, all written in the beautiful Te Reo Maori. Aro utilise a multitude of instruments to create a diverse and engaging soundscape.

The EP begins with Kotare, a bright acoustic track. You can hear the joy in the performer’s voices as they skip across a bubbly guitar line, supported by saxophone. Kotare translates to The Kingfisher, and talks about finding strength through standing together in adversity. There is poetry in the whakatauki. If bowed down, let it be a lofty mountain.

The second track takes its name from the mystical Pukeko. Pukeko begins with a lightly distorted riff before launching into chorus vocals chanting about standing your ground against colonialism. I loved the creative blend of the riff and tuneful chant. The result is a spirited and intriguing piece of writing. One of my favourite things about He Manu Ano is the way it captures the best parts of so many genres. Driven by storytelling, the EP pulls elements from pop, R&B and jazz. Pukeko is an awesome blend of haka and hip hop.

The EP is balanced and diverse. Huia brings a more mellow sound to the mix, beginning with beautiful acoustic guitar, and featuring tight nit harmonies. Ruru, a song about the morepork, captures the sound of the bird with skill. Aro's connection to and respect towards wildlife can be heard in this track; it’s lovely to hear them capturing the sound of the Ruru with their voices. Kuaka in particular captures Aro's essence for me. The trotting rhythms, close harmonies and spoken lyrics are effective in creating the sense of fun I have come to associate with the duo’s sound.

Aro are playing an important part in celebrating Te Reo Maori. The He Manu Ano EP is refreshing, driven by creativity and innovation. It was a pleasure to review such an inspired collection of songs.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Aro

Aro consists of husband and wife Charles (Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngati Te Ata, Te Ati Awa) and Emily Looker (nee Rice). The pair share a passion for the power of language and music to tell stories and remind us of our cultural identity. The duo were finalists for the Maioha Award at the Silver Scrolls (2019) and the APRA Best Children’s Song Award for their song Korimako (2020).

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Aro


Year: 2019
Type: Album
Van Jams
Year: 2018
Type: EP
Year: 2017
Type: EP

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