Multi-award-winning artist and Milk! Records co-founder Jen Cloher releases their fifth album I Am The River, The River Is Me today via Marathon Artists/ Milk! Records and shares a new video for single “Harakeke.” Cloher will also embark on a European tour in June with a run of UK dates.
I Am The River, The River Is Me honors Jen’s Māori heritage, the indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand and is the first time they have woven the Māori language through their songwriting. These are fiercely political songs that never feel heavy: They are energetic and full-blooded, alive with the knowledge that to simply exist — to scream and laugh and sing and make art — is as much a form of resistance as to fight.
On the new single, Jen says, "Patti Smith once said 'The dead speak. We have forgotten how to listen.' Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview) tends to agree. We know there is a thin veil between the living and the dead and that our Tūpuna (Ancestors) are right there with us. This is the spirit I felt close when I was writing and recording the album. I am not doing this alone and it's not just for me.
Harakeke (or the flax plant) has been used by Māori for whāriki (weaving) for hundreds of years. Before this song had lyrics I named the demo ‘Wild Grass’. As I started to write the lyrics I saw that it was a communication, I was being told the things I needed to hear and it was being woven into a song. I think because of how mysterious this song is to me, it’s my favorite on the album.
The clip for my new song Harakeke stars two extremely talented Māori performers who are also based in Naarm, Melbourne. Fallon Te Paa and Breanne Peters are members of T’HONI Kapa Haka, who you might remember from the Being Human video. Fallon’s five year old daughter Iranui makes an appearance in the clip, bringing four generations onto the screen. It echoes the themes of the song, remembering my Mum, Dorothy Urlich-Cloher and her scholarly contribution to Māori tribes in the Far North of New Zealand.”
Cloher's first album in five years, I Am The River, The River Is Me, is verdant and rich; it luxuriates in stillness, and carries itself with cool, unfussy confidence. It suggests that home is not found in a place or a politic, but in the community you keep: Inspired by Cloher’s powerful matrilineal line of wāhine Māori, I Am The River, The River Is Me is not urgent, or hurried, but it is vital, made with the care and ease of someone who knows that their past began before birth, and will continue long after they’re gone.
I Am The River, The River Is Me is an album of remarkable generosity and grace. Recorded between Aotearoa (NZ) and Naarm (Melbourne) with producers Tom Healy (Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams), Anika Ostendorf (Hachiku) and Cloher’s longtime drummer Jen Sholakis; the album brings in trailblazing artists including Emma Donovan (Gumbaynggirr, Yamatji), Kylie Auldist, Liz Stringer, Te Kaahu (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Tīpā), Ruby Solly (Kai Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) and members of the Naarm-based Kapa Haka, Te Hononga o ngā Iwi. The entire record feels communal — a celebration not just of Cloher, but of the rich, life-filled communities that surround them.
Finding yourself, finding your home, is an unruly, never-ending process; I Am The River, The River Is Me is not a perfect self-portrait, and it possesses no universal truth about what it means to be Māori, or to be wahine toa (a strong woman), or to be takatāpui, or even to be Jen Cloher. Instead, it captures something else — a picture of humanity and community as a gorgeous, unfathomable mess. The joy of life, Cloher seems to say, is in forgiving your moments of weakness with grace, and embracing the parts of you that are unfinished. On “Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu”, they put it simply, and perfectly: “I may have come late, but better late than never.”
Save / Order I Am The River, The River Is Me here
See Jen Cloher live:
7 - Deaf Institute, Manchester UK (Tickets)
8 - Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds UK (Tickets)
9 - The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle UK (Tickets)
10 - Stereo, Glasgow UK (Tickets)
11 - The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham UK (Tickets)
13 - Jazz Café, London UK (Tickets)
14 - Louisiana, Bristol UK (Tickets)
15 - Green Door Store, Brighton UK (Tickets)
16 - Witfloof Bar Botanique, Brussels BE (Tickets)
17 - EKKO, Utrecht NL (Tickets)
18 - Rotown, Rotterdam NL (Tickets)
20 - Supersonic, Paris FR (Tickets)
22 - Molotow Skybar, Hamburg DE (Tickets)
23 - Privatclub, Berlin DE (Tickets)
28 - Meow, Wellington NZ
29 - Whammy Bar, Auckland NZ