Westenra - 100% Pure New Zealand
up in New Zealand – surrounded by sea, snow and space
– has had a huge influence on Hayley Westenra’s blossoming
are quite a few songs where, as I sing, I picture myself
walking along a beach. It’s usually the beach at Sumner,
in Christchurch, where I live,” 17-year-old Westenra says.
so serene and so beautiful and I know it influences the
way I sing certain songs. I think if I had grown
up in a busy city, like New York, I would sing quite differently
– choose a different repertoire. But living in New
Zealand, I guess I am compelled to sing like I do.”
young woman is finding herself spending less and less
time in the country she loves, as her career takes her
to performances in Asia, Europe, Britain and America.
Westenra, who always travels with either her mother or
father at her side, never forgets where she comes from
and makes certain the rest of the world knows exactly
where she calls home.
spent four months in London recording her new album with
Beatles producer Sir George Martin and his son Giles.
The album name, Pure, has a lot to do with the way she
sees New Zealand.
say that my voice and my music is pure, and the treatment
of the songs on the album has been pure,” she says.
“But it’s also about the fact that I come from New Zealand
– a country that is 100 percent ‘pure’. I think
that reflects a lot in the songs I’m singing.”
of those on the Pure album, which rushed to No 1 on the
New Zealand charts, are well-loved, emotive Maori songs
– Pokarekare Ana, and Hine E Hine. She says she
has an affinity with Maori music, having grown up singing
Maori songs in school, and today she is entranced by the
melodic lyrics in the native language.
really enjoy singing Maori music – I think it is beautiful
and the vowel sounds are gorgeous,” she says.
have grown up with it. We’d sing Maori songs at
school - every week a teacher would grab a guitar and
we would all sing along to them.
you are away from New Zealand, songs like Pokarekare Ana
immediately bring you home - the memories of home and
your family come flooding back. It’s hard not to
Ana is about someone parting with a loved one, heading
off to sea. It’s distressing in a way, but such a beautiful
song. Hine E Hine is a lullaby, which translates as Maiden
O Maiden – a mother singing her daughter to sleep.”
says she is always enthusiastic about learning more of
the Maori culture – her great grandfather was Maori.
She has happy memories of her childhood learning to weave
the flax plant – a traditional Maori craft – at her favourite
holiday spot, Golden Bay.
Bay is located at the top of the South Island, bordered
by beaches and mountain ranges. No matter how crazy
her schedule is, Westenra’s family always make sure she
spends a Christmas summer holiday there each year.
get a camp site for our tent right on the beach, take
our canoe, swim and lie around in the sun. It’s so restorative,”
is a town called Takaka, where they have busy little markets
and the people are so relaxed and friendly. It’s
the perfect holiday really.”
she cannot travel far, Westenra is content to go to Sumner
Beach, on Christchurch’s east coast with friends.
says friends she has met overseas come to New Zealand
and are “gobsmacked” by her country. “They just
can’t believe the scenery. They go through rolls
and rolls of film trying to capture it all in photos,”
she says. “They are just blown away by the beauty
of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and Lake Wakatipu
in Queenstown and the wild beaches of the West Coast.
really miss all those places when I am away. I miss
the space we have in New Zealand. When I’m staying
in London it feels really cramped and I just long for
my big backyard at home.
“And I miss the lifestyle we have – where we can go to
the beach and ski on the mountains in the same day.”
says the relaxed but fun way of life in New Zealand has
played a major role in moulding the performer that she
is. “New Zealanders are very creative people, which
has a lot to do with our lifestyle,” she says. “New Zealand
really encourages its kids to get up and perform.
When I was eight years old, I was in a busking competition
around the malls in Christchurch and it gave me the confidence
and encouragement to go out and sing.
support that New Zealanders give their performers and
artists gives them the kick-start they need to go out
on the world stage.”
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