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Multi Award Nominees, Bilingual Duo, Aro, celebrate 2024 with the release of their new album ‘He Rākau, He Ngārara’

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



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