There is a Maori expression that means “the wind songs.” It is “Te Hau Waiata” (pronounced Tee Ho Why-a-ta) and it is also the title of the newest CD by Indigie Femme, a duo comprised of Elena Higgins born in New Zealand of Maori and Samoan descent, and Tash Terry born and raised on the Navajo (Diné) Nation.
Indigie Femme is planning a CD release party for “Te Hau Waiata” Wednesday (Dec. 19) at 7 p.m. at The Coffee Spot, 900 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is free.
“I have Tash to thank for her persistence and belief of making this CD happen,” Higgins said. “Our fans demanded CDs in our languages. When we finished ‘Grandmother Earth Grandfather Sky,’ I was hoping Tash would forget about the ‘Maori CD.’ She didn’t.”
“I grew up singing the songs on the CD,” Higgins continued. “My father, Thomas Shepherd, who was of the generation that could only speak English at school or be whipped or severely punished, helped with my diction and translations of these songs. It has been an incredible birthing process with conception starting in May 2010.”
Higgins and Terry have sung together for the past six years. The Santa Fe-based duo has won state, national and international awards for their work, including awards at the New Mexico Music Awards and the Native American Music Awards (NAMMYs).
Terry convinced her mother to buy her a guitar at the age of 11, and says it has not left her side since. She was inspired by many American Indian mentors and was introduced to a deaf and hard of hearing Navajo family from Lukachukai at an early age. That experience spurred her to study American Sign Language (ASL) and Terry works as an ASL-associate freelance interpreter. Terry studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and has been involved in Native theater, scriptwriting, directing and acting.
Terry said she does much of the composing for Indigie Femme. She plays guitar and bass and sings and writes songs.
“I like to add chants as I was raised on the Diné rez with a lot of chants that has influenced my folk-indigenous sound. This also helps me to write songs with chorus, verse, and bridges. Also, I’m influenced by the ’60s music rock genre, Creedence Clearwater, Alice Cooper, etc. There was the AIM time and singers-songwriters Buffy Saint-Marie, Floyd Westerman, XIT and Mr. Indian and Time. These performers were heavy into the Native activist movement and sharing voices of our histories and our current walks in life.”
Higgins says she has “an extremely powerful voice, which in the beginning of Indigie Femme was a little overwhelming for Tash.” She said when the duo first toured in New Zealand in 2007, her friends and family would often break into song. “Tash was extremely relieved that I sounded like everyone else — ‘Nothing too special after all,’ she would say.”
Asked what she feels is important for people to understand about the Maori culture, Higgins replied, “The early 1970s Aotearoa (New Zealand) embraced the revitalization of the Maori language making it compulsory through the national education system that every school in the nation had to teach x-amount of hours of the language and culture. This was from the results of fears that the language may die. In 1987, Te Reo Maori became an official language in New Zealand. This was significant and extremely successful for the country which treasured its indigenous heritage by striving to integrate Maori culture into everyday life.”
“I am proud to be from a small country, the size of Colorado, where the people have hearts the size of the universe,” Higgins added. “People matter and are not considered commodities. We know we are custodians of Mother Earth, not to rape and pillage her for profit. Those who we elect are the voice of the people and our community and we are not influenced by money and short-sightedness. I am proud of my global consciousness stemming from my heritage of love and respect to all.”
For more information, call (575) 758-8556 or visit www.indigiefemme.com.