Loose Canons: Mara TK

The son of Māori psychedelic rock legend Billy TK, Mara TK (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Tainui) is a golden-voiced, Māori Scottish world-wandering citizen of Aotearoa.

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Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

The son of Māori psychedelic rock legend Billy TK, Mara TK (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Tainui) is a golden-voiced, Māori Scottish world-wandering citizen of Aotearoa. Through his work alongside his acclaimed future soul trio Electric Wire Hustle (winner of the best electronic act at the 2015 New Zealand Music Awards), he's proven himself to be a singular force for modern music.

Fluent in voice, guitar, bass and beat machines, Mara has has worked with Eru Dangerpsiel, Wild Bill Ricketts, Ommas Keith, Muhsinah, Jake One, Julien Dyne and others. Outside of Electric Wire Hustle, Mara has recorded and performed with Kimbra, Mos Def, Just Blaze, Fly My Pretties and Tim Finn among others, and he's in the process for forging an idiosyncratic style within the worlds of soul music, modern beats and inter-disciplinary art.

Next Tuesday Mara puts an entirely new kind of work on stage - Poropiti - a meditation on pre-European Aotearoa told through movement, sound and song and co-created with performer Tola Newbery.

Iti te kupu, nui te whakaaro: small words, big thoughts

Māori love a good poem, proverb or song. If the artist has a good voice then he or she will be welcomed by any community in Aotearoa. I’m a sucker for a bit of mysticism and surrealism; WB Yeats’s ability to turn a fish he’s caught into a girl, or how Neruda, in his poem Discoverers of Chile, can remind us that our world is made from bird shit. I also love his South American contemporary Cesar Vallejo. Vallejo’s grandmothers were Chimu Indians and I always hear an anti-colonial spirit in his poems which resonate with me. Reading him is like reading the journalist Robert Fisk: don’t do it unless you’re prepared to be knocked over. In A Stranger Every Sunday that's the case: There are blows in life so violent – I can’t answer!

Ask That Mountain by Dick Scott

Our show Poropiti is based heavily on this book about the colonisation of the Taranaki region, the establishment of Parihaka, its invasion by colonial forces and the imprisonment without trial of its occupants. This book is a must read and I don't know if many New Zealanders understand the brutality, racism and entrepreneurialism of those early military settlers working in unison with government officials. Imagine if frontline American military officers could divide Baghdad into private titles and sell land on to developers. This is what mercenary settlers were able to do in our early colonial history.


In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket. - Allen Ginsberg

I fear PAK'nSAVE more than I fear anything else. But I do love stalking around a good supermarket. My mother’s family are fishermen from Moeraki and there’s only so long I can go without seafood. Sooner or later I’ll be at our fishmonger eyeing things up like a heron - evaluating whether or not I can pull off using a certain fish I haven’t encountered before. I’ll just buy things that jump out at me like baby octopus, clams or tītī (mutton bird). Part of the attraction is in the fact that there aren’t many things I don’t eat, and so it’s like going to a singles bar and having the hots for everyone in there.

Al Green

Al Green is both an influence on my work and an influence on my daily mood. There are days when I have to listen to Al Green. The Reverend should be in every soul singer’s list of top five all-time great vocalists. For me, what gives him that extra punch is the amount of personality he packs into every line. It’s like he’s left the bath taps running and purposefully gone out for a walk...


My eldest is old enough to go on dates with me to cafes and it’s about the best thing I can think of doing. As a young 'un we lived in the back blocks of Whanganui for two years and my Dad would take me to McDonald's every Thursday and it was a shining light in my week.

Poropiti runs from 20-25 at The Basement Theatre. Tickets available here.