Theia's new Christmas waiata in te reo to play out on Air NZ

By Jessica Tyson

Air New Zealand has been named Airline of the Year for the sixth time by AirlineRatings.com -  It's good news for Waikato-Tainui pop artist Theia whose soon-to-be-released Christmas waiata has been chosen as the landing song on the airline's flights.

The name of the waiata is Te Kaiwhakaora o Te Ao.

“I wrote Te Kaiwhakaora o Te Ao as a gift to our people - a traditional Christmas hymn to call our own. A waiata to transcend generations and weave together the past and present, says Theia.  

“I would love this to be a song that is sung and performed in marae, churches and schools for many years to come."

She's joining an impressive line-up of other Māori artists like TEEKS, Sons of Zion, Stan Walker, and Six60, who've had their songs played to thousands of visitors on Air New Zealand.

“Ko te manako, ka tino whakatauria o rātou wairua i te whakarongona atu ki tēnei waiata i te mea, ko tēnei waiata kua tito i runga i te pai, i runga i te rangimarie i runga i te whakatau wairua me kī.”

"The hope is, that their spirits will be at peace by listening to this waiata because, this waiata was written with the intention that the listener's spirits would be uplifted and they would feel at peace."

Theia worked with fellow Māori creatives to bring the project together, including the illustrator Māori Mermaid, of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Ruanui, who designed the cover art and Nicole Hunt, of Ngāi Tūhoe, who shot the photos and video.

In her video clip, Theia is wearing the work of esteemed fashion designer Bobby Luke of Ngāti Ruanui from the label Campbell Luke. The song sees Theia - who descends from Waikato-Tainui - following in the footsteps of her late great grandmother Mite Kerei Kukutai, the composer of the beloved waiata Kiwi Weka.

Theia is fluent in te reo and has a bachelor double majoring in te reo Māori and Māori and Indigenous Studies. With her passion for the language, she planned to go home next month to visit Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Puaha o Waikato.

“Ka noho tahi, me ngā tamariki o reira, ka whakaako i Te Kaiwhakaora o Te Ao ki a rātou, ka kōrero pea, ka hopu pikitia, ērā mea. Engari, āe, he tino pai ki ahau te noho tahi me ngā rangatira o āpōpō, whai hoki me ngā rangatira nō taku ake rohe me kī.”

"The plan is to stay with the children of that area, teaching them Te Kaiwhakaora o te Ao, while speaking with them, taking pictures, that sort of thing. But yes, I'd really like to be with the leaders of tomorrow, especially those from my own region."

She also hopes for other Māori artists to write their own Christmas waiata.

“He momo rangatiratanga tēnā nē, te tito anō i tou ake waiata... mō te iwi Māori, ki te reo Māori, mō Aotearoa ānō.”

"This is a form of sovereignty isn't it? To write your own music, for Māori, in Māori, for Aotearoa as well."

The waiata will be released on Thursday to be played out throughout the festive season.”

Christchurch-born Theia emerged on the New Zealand music scene in 2016 with her song Roam. She has gone on to release two EPs to critical acclaim; her first earning her three nominations at the 2017 New Zealand Music Awards and her second Not Your Princess receiving two nominations at the 2019 Waiata Māori Music Awards.

Te Kaiwhakaora o Te Ao will be released on Thursday and will be the landing song on Air New Zealand international and domestic flights throughout December.