Brothers Andrew and Darrius Strickland, along with their nephew, Malachi Strickland, (Tainui; Te Rarawa and Iwi Te Whau) recently cruised into second place in the 2020 E Tū Whānau Song Competition, winning $2000 in cash. Their snappy waiata Mauria te Pono celebrates Māori identity, and the resilience and growth of Māori culture despite pākehā dominance.
“It’s so easy to be mesmerised, bright lights and fast cash –
Each step into this modern world, it’s like I’m walking off my land.
And I hear in my spirit my Tīpuna calling out,” Andrew sings.
Mauria te Pono, which hums along on groovy beats and slick production values, encourages Māori to be proud of who they are. In these times of global uncertainty and change, it also aims to support Māori in holding steady to the path their tīpuna have laid for them.
“I know that I am strong,
Descended from a line of greatness, and I am never alone.”
The song reminds people, especially rangatahi who may otherwise feel lost, that their cultural identities connect them to a wider family of Māori past, present and future.
Listen to Mauria te Pono here.
Anchoring for positive identities
“Being connected as Māori, and having the identity, you know your place and where you stand in the world. Realising that there is support there in terms of family, iwi, helps you move forward,” he says.
Without cultural identities that are positive and affirmed, people easily become lost. Often, feelings of being alone and adrift follow close behind, and these can lead people into very dark places, Andrew says.
“I know that times get darker, sometimes it’s too much pain.
I know that life is harder, and I can’t see through the rain.
But I know that I can make it
I know that I am strong
He whakapapa noa tua
Mauria te pono.”
Indeed, the changes that have taken place in Aotearoa over the past decades are something to celebrate. “With the new generation, you can be proud to be Māori and you don’t have to compete in the pākehā way. We have something unique and we should be proud of it,” Andrew says.
Faith, music and gratitude
For Andrew, like his four brothers, music comes hand-in-hand with their Christian faith, both of which have been constants throughout their lives. Andrew has led the praise and worship team for several years at his church. He has also performed at Parachute Music Festival. Looking ahead, his goal is to put out an album or two of Christian music before turning 40 in four years’ time.
While his eyes may be on what lies ahead, Andrew is grateful to E Tū Whānau, and all those who contributed to the success of Mauria te Pono in the song competition. In particular, he extends gratitude to Iwi Te Whau for translating the lyrics into Te Reo, and to Darrius Strickland for the song’s beats and production.
He also offers special thanks to fourteen year-old Malachi Strickland for fronting the song’s video so as to make its message more relatable to rangatahi Māori, and also for allowing himself to be rustled out bed early.
“I woke him up Sunday morning, and the deadline was midday on Sunday. So, shout out to him for rubbing the sleep out of his eye and getting in front of the camera,” Andrew says.