Stan Walker could win an Oscar for song rooted in Māori culture in US filmmaker's new movie

Stan Walker could win an Oscar for song rooted in Māori culture in US filmmaker's new movie

The track debuted on US TV this morning.

Stan Walker is honing in on the importance of whakapapa with his latest track ‘I AM’ featured in director and Oscar-nominated Ava DuVernay’s feature film ‘ORIGIN’. 

Stan co-wrote the song alongside the extremely talented Michael Fatkin, Te Kanapu Anasta and Vince Harder.

Together, they cooked up an original piece inspired by the inspiring life of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson and her game-changing book, 'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.'

The track debuted on the US breakfast news show 'CBS Mornings' to an audience of millions, where host Gayle King told the story of how Ava found Stan and was immediately keen to have him perform an original song for the film.

Ava DuVernay was hooked when she stumbled upon Stan's rendition of Kanye West's 'Ultralight Beam.' I mean, who wouldn't be? She slid into Stan's DMs via mutual Instagram connections, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I watched it four times, back to back," Ava said.

24 hours later, she was chatting with Stan on the phone.

“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.”

Multiple reports say 'I AM' is a strong contender for 'Best Original Song' at next year's Oscars, and Variety has confirmed the song will be submitted to the Academy.

According to its creators, ‘I AM’ is a declaration of ownership and the reclamation of identity. During the collaboration, Stan focussed on the importance of understanding our whakapapa (lineage) and our origins.

“Everyone has a different story, and some people are ashamed because their cultures have been attached to negative things. I have lived that life but that is not what our culture is,” Stan explained.

He continued: “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.”

“Māori society in its purest form is aroha (love) and we have protocols for everything to show respect,” Stan added.

“For me ‘I AM’ is an affirmation that it’s never too late to take ownership of your identity and reconnect to your roots.”

The song's chorus is sung in te reo Māori, and the video was filmed across the motu, showcasing Aotearoa's beauty and culture on the world stage.

In the chorus, Stan chants about Kurawaka, connecting us with the first human creation in Māori cosmologies.

“The blood that really pumps through the song is the Māori words and techniques,” Stan said.

He adds: “The song finishes with a whakataukī (Māori proverb) that loosely translates ‘to bind together, fix, and affirm; it is affirmed! Bound together; in unity!’ It is a reminder of the origins and stories that embrace our collective power.”

‘ORIGIN’ is set to release on NEON NZ in January 2024.