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Not content with doing things in halves, the new album from husband & wife duo ‘Aro’, coincidentally encompasses a special series of ‘fours’! 

  • ‘He Rākau, He Ngārara’ is their fourth body of work, out in the ‘fourth’ month of 2024. 

  • ‘He Rākau, He Ngārara’ embodies ‘four’ waiata inspired by five native rākau (trees) and ‘four’ waiata linked to native ngārara (insects & reptiles), resulting in a stunning multi-faceted bilingual album.

  • Last but not least, the album will be out in the world, not long after the birth of their second child, the ‘fourth’ member of Aro! 

‘He Rākau, He Ngārara’, is a beautiful step on Aro’s musical journey, further highlighting their talents and the respect held for them by so many. The music takes us from the upbeat to the more mellow vocal driven tracks, taking us from Northland - Ngāti Kurī, through to the deep south of Auckland - Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua and down to Taranaki - Ngāti Mutunga, Te Atiawa nui tonu. As we listen, we accompany them on this path, following the Rākau & Ngārara and in the footsteps of the pair's vast whanau’s knowledge & history. 

The fourth innovative body of work from ‘Aro’, ‘He Rākau, He Ngārara’, celebrates significant native rākau & ngārara. The process included researching mātauranga Māori, related or relevant to, legends and whakatauki, with each waiata written with involvement from members of iwi and hapū that Charles belongs to.

As there are many native trees and ngārara in Aotearoa, we sought a method to narrow the list meaningfully. This led us to the rākau referenced in the legend of Maui and Mahuika - the only native trees that can start a fire. Considering the place this pūrākau has with tamariki and whānau, including from when Charles was in kōhanga reo, we felt this was a meaningful way to establish this project.

The Tāmaki Makaurau based husband & wife duo, Charles & Emily Looker, have been nominated for multiple NZ music awards since forming in 2017, most recently, becoming finalists for the 2023 Silver Scrolls. Renowned for blending Emily's honey-voiced jazz with Charles' full throated percussive sound with shades of haka. Aro's in studio & live performance adds up to a warmth of experience, wholly original, anchored in Aotearoa. The pair have become well known for their multi-genre offering of music & storytelling, exploring the ideas of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga - looking after ourselves, each other, and our environment. Charles and Emily proudly share a passion for the power of language and music to tell stories celebrating our unique identity.

With their breathtaking and distinctive sound, these two exceptional talents meld perfectly in the studio with their latest recordings, and with their unmistakable stage presence. When performing live, “they leave all who experience ‘Aro’, the feeling of being let in on a very special secret!” - Rosheen Fitzegerald (gig review at Common Room 2019).

‘He Rākau, He Ngārara’ has been produced and recorded with award winning producer, Vivek Gabriel in his Mt Roskill studio ‘Gabriel Audio’.  Aro have also had support and musical mentorship on this project from Laughton Kora, with multiple kiwi artists adding their magic to the album’s waiata - Warren Maxwell, Chip Matthews, Gin Papali’i, Aaron Clarke, Bill Sim, Guy Harrison, Lucy Summerfield, Sam Kelsen, Oliver Meade, Eli Moore, Adam Tobec, Anesu Maforimbo, Peter Leupolu, Abraham Kunin & Mike Gibson, as well as taonga puoro performed by Charles Looker (Aro). The pair were also honoured to spend time in Wellington recording with Warren Maxwell & Laugton Kora, specifically to record on Pounui, a beautiful rākau pūoro in Warren's care.

Aro’s Rākau & linked Ngārara are:

Kāikōmako, paired with the Namupoto (kōrero from Charle's Ngāti Kurī whakapapa)

Māhoe & Patatē, paired with Mokomoko (kōrero from Charles' Ngāti te Ata whakapapa)

Tōtara, paired with Wētā (hononga through Emily's mum)

Pukatea, paired with Tātarakihi (kōrero from Charles' Te Ātiawa whakapapa)

At the heart of the album is a track called Pounui. Pounui honours the time, energy, and company of this rākau pūoro in this project, eventually becoming the tie that brought all the songs together. Samples of rhythms, voicings - organically occurring inspiration, that all 7 of us involved at the time felt,  have been carefully selected and pieced together to form what we believe is the song of ‘Pounui’ for this album. Deeply passionate about promoting te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, Aro also hope this album will contribute to the growth of te reo Māori amongst their audiences. Some of the native trees and insect + reptiles referenced on this album will be familiar to the general New Zealand public, and some will be new.

It's been a huge few years for the talented pair, most recently becoming finalists (top 20) for the 2023 Silver Scroll Awards, having been finalists for the Maioha Award at the Silver Scrolls (2019), finalists at for the APRA Best Children’s Song Award for their waiata Korimako (2020) and Kia Mau (2023), and as finalists for Best Māori Group at the Waiata Māori Music Awards (2022).

The overall project, including its extensive research, has been funded by Creative New Zealand, who Charles and Emily are extremely  grateful to. They have also received incredible ongoing support on this kaupapa, from Te Kuru Dewes, their Mātanga Reo, who has checked all their kupu Māori for every song!

He Rākau, He Ngārara is due for release on April 19th and the pair hope to head out on the road to perform the album live, in Spring 2024, as a newly formed 4 piece -  with long term member -  3 year old daughter Olive and the bands newest member, Teaumarino, in tow!


Cheree Ridder, Publicist

Phone: 027 577 3520

Listen/Watch ‘Kia Mau’ HERE

Artwork by Mike Looker

Inspired by recent events and experiences the pair have released their stunning new Waiata and video clip for ‘Kia Mau’. Aro, proudly brought together, for this very special video, their family and friends - coming together to emphasise the importance of maintaining relationships and respect for people even if we don't agree with them.

‘Kia Mau’ comes off the back of their Top 10 NZ single ‘Tohorā’, released earlier this year. ‘Tohora’ captured hearts & minds around the Motu with the pairs stunning vocals, the videos quintessential, breathtaking New Zealand imagery and the delightful young cast.

Timed perfectly for NZ Music Month, they further this recent success with ‘Kia Mau’, featuring ‘Aro’s’ signature playful and uplifting sound, with vocals melding together perfectly and with an awareness of recent covid related divisions between families and friends, nationwide, at the forefront.

“Our waiata "Kia Mau" is about maintaining relationships and respect with people even if we don't agree with them. "He tapu te tangata ahakoa ko wai" is a mātāpono from the founding document, Te Aho Matua, of kura kaupapa Māori that Charles learnt while at school. It means that a person is sacred no matter who they are or where they come from - or what their opinion is.”

Silver Scroll APRA Maioha Award and APRA Best Children’s Award Finalists, ‘Aro’, are made up of husband and wife Charles (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Ata, Te Ati Awa) and Emily Looker (nee Rice). The Auckland based pair share a passion for the power of language and music to tell stories and remind us of our cultural identity. The pair have become well known for their multi-genre offering of storytelling pop, RnB, electronic and jazz, fusing vocals, tāonga puoro and chants, and for often exploring the ideas of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga - looking after ourselves, looking after each other and looking after our environment.

The duo are also taking their music on the road through June in celebration of Kia Mau and their recent releases. This will be the first time fans and music lovers around the motu will have the chance to hear these songs live , due to covid 19 cancelling 3 of their tours over the past couple of years. The pair are performing from Auckland to Bluff during and around Matariki 2022, as part of the Te Waipounamu Matariki programme - where they will be bringing workshops to schools and public spaces as well as being part of Matariki festivals, and a few ticketed shows along the way. Tour Details below

For the ‘Kia Mau’ video, the pair proudly brought together some of their whanau & friends to put differences aside and unite for this ever-important message. Directed and produced by Tom Grut - who they had the pleasure of working with in the past on projects like their charming single Baby Beat.

“The cast consists of our real family and friends, some of who were a little hesitant to be on camera but tautoko the kaupapa, each with our own beliefs and political views to truly represent what we’re singing about. ‘Kia Mau’ is an encouragement and an invitation to engage in conversation with others, listening to try to understand each other, eye to eye, face to face - kanohi ki te kanohi, and it doesn't mean we have to agree with each other either.”

Photos by Cara Graham

HUGE thanks to NZ on Air & Te Māngai Paho for the support of Waiata Takitahi funding on this project!!

Aro 2022 Matariki Tour Dates:

Tour details - Details and tickets can be found at

Sat 4th June | Taste of Pasifika - 3pm on Queens Wharf, Auckland Details

Friday 10th June | The Raumati Social Club - 7pm Tickets

Tuesday 14th June | The Academy, Geraldine - 7pm

Sat 18th June | Bellamys Gallery, Dunedin - 7pm

Friday 24th June | Murihiku Matariki, Queens Park Invercargill 6 - 8pm

Saturday 25th June | Invercargill Public Library 11 am

Saturday 25th June | Winton Public Library 3 pm

Saturday 25th June | Murihiku Matariki Queens Park Invercargill 6- 8pm

Thursday 30th June | Puketeraki marae Karitane - public workshop and show from 6.30 pm

Friday 1st July | Araiteuru marae - public workshop and show from 6.30 pm

Sat 8th July | Auckland Art Gallery - family show 10.30am

Tēnā koutou katoa!

It's been quite a while since we've put out one of these lil updates, so we thought we'd send one out in the lead up to summer and Christmas! We hope you're doing okay out there, it's been one heck of a weird couple of years on planet earth hasn't it? Who would have thought an international pandemic was just around the corner when we were enjoying summer 2019-2020. Wild. While it has been rather gutting to see all the dates of our nationwide He Wai release tour being crossed off in the diary as each week of the unpredictable lockdown continued, and now seeing the summer shows and festivals we were hopeful might get to happen being cancelled too, we have so much to be thankful for. We were soooo looking forward to seeing you all, and for our first trip around the motu with our little miss Olive who would have been 6 months when it was due to start - little did we know she would get into a habit of waking 5-7 times a night for the next couple of months at that point! - perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, having the comfort of home and no need to be anywhere at all at that time :p Our latest project 'He Wai' was released into the world on September 3rd, an EP of 5 waiata inspired and guided by our relationship to te taiao and what we can learn from it about ourselves and each other - stories of our waters. We had fun celebrating the release from home, and are super thankful for our publicist Cheree Ridder who did an amazing job helping the music find it's fins - here's a link to our media page on the website if you're interested! Spotify informed us we had 124% more listeners once the EP dropped compared to the previous month too - thank youuuu for listening! Apparently there's 11K of you jammin' our tunes which this lil duo is pretty stoked about.

It's been a happy time here. Instead of doing all the live shows, we filmed a live vid for each of the waiata on He Wai which are over

HERE on our FB page. We've been writing too and are excited to announce we have a lil Christmas EP coming out this December! But mostly, we've just been enjoying all this time we've had to spend with Olive, and each other. The early days of parenthood have been an absolute joy, we love this little bean so very much!

Thankful for NZ Music Commission who funded the making of our He Wai Educational resource, which we share in schools - and have been able to do a bunch as online workshops this lockdown. Also thankful to NZ on Air who recently funded the making of a music video which is for Tohorā (last track of the new EP) - which we'll be sharing in the new year before a bunch of shows we can't WAIT to announce!! The amazing film directors who made the gorgeous video for

Tauhou back in 2019 are filming this one - it's guna be spesh!!

We're so looking forward to being able to hug our families and see our friends and travel again to perform live and see YOU all again. But this lil duo/trio are doing good and we just thought we'd drop you a line to say hello. We hope you're all doing okay :)

Aroha nui e hoa mā


Emily, Charles and miss Olive x

Oh and just one final reminder that we have plenty of the new He Wai CD's available - Christmas is comin'

Grab yours HERE



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