How am I so late to the Jen Cloher party?! An integral part of the Melbourne indie scene that also gave us Courtney Barnett, Cloher is a long-established and hugely respected songwriter and performer. And, when you listen to ‘Mana Takatāpui’, taken from their first album in five years, it’s not hard to see why. It’s dazzling. A masterclass in songwriting, ‘Mana Takatāpui‘ celebrates the indigenous Polynesian people of Aotearoa, New Zealand and the Māori, LGBTQ+ community. It’s also an important reflection on finding yourself and the concept of ‘home’.
Cloher’s warm honeyed vocal, reminiscent of early Cat Power, is so soothing and spiritual that it makes your heart swell. And, while their lyrics are both personal and political, they are delivered with such love and pride that the song never feels heavy. From the opening harmonies to the upbeat affirmations that come later, it’s joyous. This is music to bathe yourself in.
Of the meaning behind the track, Cloher explains:
“I’m no expert but I’m guessing Māori pre-colonisation didn’t hold the same beliefs around gender and sexuality as Queen Victoria’s England. I’ve read that our men were hands on dedicated fathers and some of our best midwives; that our women fought side by side on the battlefield and that our wāhine atua (female gods) held as much mana (power and respect) as our tāne atua. Christianity came hand in hand with colonisation; their missionaries introducing the concepts of body shame, sexual repression, a woman’s menstrual cycle as impure, homosexuality as a perversion and gender as binary.“
Watch the poignant new video for Mana Takatāpui here:
Cloher’s upcoming new album, I Am The River, The River Is Me, is set for release on 3rd March 2023 via Milk! Records/Marathon Artists.
Photo Credit: Marcelle Bradbeer