Kirsten Te Rito


About this artist...

Decade(s) active:

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Over the last decade, Kirsten Te Rito has toured and recorded with some of Aotearoa’s leading musicians, recorded with bands such as ‘Wai’ and ‘Little Bushman’, and been seen on stage as part of musical theatre productions like Miss Saigon and The Lion King. Her first solo album ‘Te Rito’ (meaning the root or growth point) reflected on her own journey of self-discovery as an urban wahine. From the realities of being a mum at 17, the loss of loved ones to suicide, to surviving it all and making it out the other side.

“When I was six my parents bought me a piano and I would play on it for hours, pretending to make up my own songs. I’ve always had a strong pull to music, and loved playing old R&B and soul records that belonged to my big brothers. Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Donny Hathaway and Michael Jackson, they all have become artistic inspirations for me.”

For her debut album, Kirsten co-produced and collaborated with her husband and top pianist James Illingworth, award winning Maori music producer Maaka McGregor and Maori language expert Dr. Joe Te Rito and it featured Wellington musicians Tyna Keelan (The Nok), Rio Hemopo (Trinity Roots), Darren Mathaissen (Hollie Smith), and Andy Mauafua (Bella Kalolo).

Kirsten and James Illingworth talk with RNZs Kirsten Johnstone on the release of her first album…

2015 saw the release of sophomore te reo Māori album ‘Āiotanga’. The 11 track album features a flood of catchy tunes again co-written and produced along side her husband and pianist James “Illkeys” Illingworth.

“We really wanted to showcase the Māori language in amongst our style of music, with groovy fat beats, lush vocals, samples and synths”…


Cover image






From RNZs ‘Te Ahi Kaa’ Kirsten & James talk about recording the EP ‘Common Ground’ in their lounge…

RNZs Yadana Saw talks to Kirsten & James about their sophomore effort and the process of bilingual songwriting…

Covers/Text sourced from Amplifier. Used with permission.

Last edited: 10.09.15

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