ria hall

Resilience & Strength

I have referenced historical information through Rules of Engagement to provide the cultural context which makes the work more earnest in my eyes.

Ria Hall

Kia Ora and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology. Congratulations of the release of your record Rules of Engagement. A uniquely and culturally driven album that has been five years in the making. How closely does the final cut resemble your initial concept and desires for the album?

Kia ora, thank you so much. It’s been a long time coming so naturally I’m stoked to have arrived at this point. Like anything, things develop and morph over time. The initial demos recorded in 2013 were a great base to grow from. I feel that the final cut is a reflection of that growth. The initial concept never strayed from the path. I remained resolute to my convictions with this work and it emanates through the album. Needless to say I’m very pleased with the result.

Often through the darkest depths of despair comes great hope and a leading light which is greatly encapsulated by your LP. You canvas a great many constructs on this record such as love and war, revolution and change. Is this dichotomy a fundamental source of the albums strength and passion?

I wanted to explore these notions musically because I feel we can relate in our everyday lives through our own battles and relationships. I have referenced historical information through the Rules of Engagement to provide the cultural context which makes the work more earnest in my eyes. Coming from this angle gave me a true sense of purpose and responsibility. So to answer you - yes, it was absolutely a fundamental and necessary source to create from.

The album focuses of some of the great Aotearoa wars of the 1800’s including the battle of Gate Pā. It is a powerful and respectful topic that you have undertaken on this album in not only remembering such important historical moments but also bringing those facts to a wider audience. Can you elaborate a little of the battle Gate Pā and its cultural / historical significance?

The Battle of Pukehinahina (Gate Pā) was fought in my tribal area of Tauranga Moana. Our allegiance to the Kīngitanga movement meant the inevitability of war with the British once they hit the Waikato. Tauranga Moana Māori and our allies fought a successful Battle, and despite the odds showed compassion to the enemy as outlined in the Rules of Engagement.

With direct ties to your whānau this must have been a deeply personal and inspiring experience. In delving deeper into the research for the album such as discovering archival recordings from your great-uncle, Turirangi Te Kani, which feature on several tracks on the album. Did this bring you even closer to your family and community?

I was born and raised in Tauranga, and I currently reside there. When the idea for this album was conceived, I was living in Wellington. I move through the world with my home at the forefront of everything I do. When you are creating music you tend not to let too many people in, until it’s released for public consumption - so I wasn’t engaging too frequently with my family and wider community during that process. What this work has done, however, is help me appreciate the resilience and strength of my own people.

You worked with some amazing local talent in putting together this album including Tiki Taane, Kings, Laughton Kora, Che-Fu and Electric Wire Hustle. What did they bring to the table that really shines through on this record?

They each brought a fresh perspective on how to approach music. The tracks are profoundly different from one another on a lyrical and musical level but the beauty is that it works! And it’s helped to really shape the album into something multi-faceted. I believe our ancestors have allowed that to happen. It’s definitely spiritual.

Did you consider at the onset of the album (or perhaps now after its completion) the positive and extended consequences of the record in terms of how inspiring it is for up and coming Māori artists and the powerful cultural roots from which they have to draw upon?

I haven’t considered that in its entirety - I have been so engrossed and focused on pulling this album together for the most part! But in hindsight, I hope that all artists, people from all walks of life - not just Māori - might draw some kind of strength and power from this work.

Where do you seen the modern Māori culture in today’s social and political landscape?

Māori culture is and will always remain very present in New Zealand’s cultural, political and social landscape. Moving forward, I wish to see a more inclusive Aotearoa of all things Māori - creating a collective culture and encouraging understanding.

What does music give you that nothing else does?

Freedom and liberation.

Can we expect an Australian tour sometime soon?

I would like to think so! My people will call your people. :)

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