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Stan Walker releases new song for filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s latest movie

Editor Written by Editor · 1 min read >


Singer Stan Walker has released a new song today, called ‘I Am’. Photo / Bevan Conley

Kiwi singer Stan Walker has today released a new song I Am for Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s latest film Origin.

The Mount Maunganui-raised Australian Idol winner says the song is a declaration “for anybody who has ever felt like they don’t know who they are”.

I Am is an affirmation that it’s never too late to take ownership of your identity and reconnect to your roots,” Walker said in a press release.

Walker, who has affiliations to Tūhoe, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pūkenga, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāi Tahu, said it was important to integrate aspects of his culture into the song.

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I Am, co-written by Walker, Vince Harder, Te Kanapu Anasta and Grammy-nominated Michael Fatkin (who also produced the track), is a declaration of ownership and reclamation of one’s identity.

“For me, the body of the song is the melodies, the production and flow, but the blood that really pumps through the song is the Māori words and techniques,” Walker said.

The release features a video co-directed by Walker and collaborator Shae Sterling, which reflects Walker’s “deep reverence for his roots” and was filmed across different locations in Aotearoa.

In the chorus, Walker chants about Kurawaka, the name of the place where the first human was created in some Māori cosmologies, uplifting a direct connection with the natural world.

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He said the chorus was a “modern adaptation of mōteatea” – the ancient and truest form of Māori music and a form of lamentation found in traditional performances.

Everyone had a different story but some people were ashamed because “their cultures have been attached to negative things”, he said.

“I have lived that life but that is not what our culture is.

“The negative outcomes are the result of intergenerational trauma caused by the suppression of our cultural identity and expression, but that is not who we are.”

Walker, pictured in 2020, says the new song is a declaration “for anybody who has ever felt like they don’t know who they are”. Photo / Michael Craig
Walker, pictured in 2020, says the new song is a declaration “for anybody who has ever felt like they don’t know who they are”. Photo / Michael Craig

In the press release, American filmmaker DuVernay said she came across Walker’s rendition of Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam and invited him to create an original track for her film.

“The comfort factor was instant for me. The trust was immediate. His spirit and creative energy shine through – even on a phone call from across the world.

“We discovered that we share the same belief, that art can change the world.”

DuVernay, whose 2014 film Selma was nominated for an Oscar, said her collaboration with Walker had been “a gift to the film” and to her personally.

“I can’t wait to share his song with the world and am grateful for the opportunity to do so.”

Supported by New Zealand on Air funding, I Am is the title track from Walker’s forthcoming EP, set for release early next year.

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