Tauranga-based musician Ria Hall is making waves in the New Zealand music scene. The artist, in her early thirties, has just released her first album, which explores Māori culture in a contemporary light.
MiNDFOOD caught up with the singer-songwriter to discuss Rules of Engagement.
Tell us about your new album?
Rules of Engagement is a journey, which aims to create an honest dialogue about both the good and bad aspects of New Zealand’s cultural past. The album looks to uphold the integrity of Māori culture in amongst modern musical sounds and the current cultural, social and political climate. It speaks to love and war, revolution and change.
The key inspiration behind the concept comes from a letter written from Henare Taratoa to Sir George Grey – New Zealand’s first Governor – outlining the manner in which the Battle of Gate Pā should ensue, and how both parties should conduct themselves during war. This code of conduct was known as the Rules of Engagement and is where this project takes its name from.
What was the process like creating the album?
This album has taken nearly five years to finish! So given that fact, I’ve experienced a number of processes which have contributed to the final product. I’ve learnt so much in that time, and it’s been an incredible ride.
You are described as a Neo Soul artist, what does that mean?
Neo-soul is a hybrid of genres such as hip-hop, jazz, fusion, pop and soul music. My music is heavily influenced by many genres, so to pinpoint a specific style is very difficult for me to do. I’m a mixed bag of lollies really!
What influence does Māori culture have on your life?
It means everything to me. My culture informs who I am and is my foundation which keeps me grounded.
Why is it an important story to tell?
Our own history should never be taken for granted. We should understand the stories of what happened in our own backyard first and foremost. If we understand our past, we can build bridges in our present, and walk across them side-by-side into the future.
What’s one song on the album that you would like everyone to hear, and why?
Love Will Lead Us Home – because the message of love is universal. We need more of it in the world!
Rules of Engagement was released on October 27 and is available now.