Josephine Clarke (Josie) discovers her own authentic path in music and shares her story
Words: Lisa te Heuheu | Photographs: Krystle Rakatau
There is a vibe to musicians. Freedom, depth, love, colour and inspired by their craft. The air around them feels different, like it came from another world, cloaked in creativity and masterful beats that we never seem to touch. But nonetheless you can feel it, and once they pick up their instruments its like the earth has opened and released another breath. Josie was touched by such a gift. Her voice resonates through a room like a rolling thunder coated with a whispering husk.
There is no mistaking this woman’s talent.
Sitting in a room with Josie she is unassuming and genuine. A strong presence, its not in Josie’s nature to just talk about the weather, she wants to know you, and you can’t help but feel you could tell her your whole life story. She speaks to you with an ease that she has figured out her purpose in life but would rather sing to you then talk about herself all day.
Josie is deep and she questions the existence of structure and how you can reconnect people to their identity. Of New Zealand Māori decent Josie has her cultural identity engrained in her very being. Fluent in Te Reo Māori and English Josie is constantly seeking a way to empower Māori communities. She is a qualified Landscape Architect and it was at University that she began to question the state of the world around her.
"I've always felt out of place, a walker of two worlds... I think that's why I put a lot of value and expectation in the work I create. I feel my work is an amalgamation of my whakapapa (genealogy). Utilising my identity, my mahi (work) emanates cultural integrity and authenticity"
Josie comes from a family of professionals. Her Dad an Architect in Auckland and her Mum a Pharmacist. She never talks of the pressure to succeed, but found herself embarking on a road, which would lead to a professional career just like her parents. In the background she was always playing around with music. She plays the drums, can play the piano, plays guitar, has the voice to match and writes and composes her own music. For Josie this was an outlet and, suppressed this art form to her bedroom walls.
It wasn’t until her selection for the Māori Music Mentoring Programme, Pao Pao Pao in 2014 that she discovered the depth of her musical talent. The aim of the programme was to develop emerging Māori musicians and establish pathways for Māori who wish to embark on a career in the music industry. Her mentors at the time included successful New Zealand musicians Warren Maxwell, Maisey Rika, Laughton Kora and Tama Waipara. She describes the time as a privilege and it gave her the confidence to perform on stage. Up until that point Josie had never performed in front of a live audience or stepped out of her bedroom to share her musical talent. From here Josie’s precision in her craft has only become sharper and when you hear her live, you would think she is a seasoned musical professional.
Josie decided after her time in mentoring that music was her calling, and her career as a professional landscape architect is the part time role she plays whilst she establishes herself. But she is on a mission. She is exploring through her Masters in Creative Practice at Unitec in Auckland the use of Oriori (Lullaby) and Music. Josie knows that music is a medium to transcend popular culture and become a tool for deep communication and connection culturally between people. As an artist Josie is on a path to share and empower a greater consciousness globally.
Her lyrics are hauntingly vivid. She lyricises politics and the fallacy of institutional leadership. She uses Māori language to connect you to her culture, confidently and boldly. She connects you to the environment and you displace yourself from reality and find yourself transported to a place of authenticity and reason. Josie is unlike any other artist. Every song expelling freedom, breaking barriers, realisations of life and she speaks of the truth of human society. She is the essence of her upbringing, Urban Auckland Māori, Far North and East Coast. Josie draws from her eclectic journey to piece her signature sound and you can hear the reggae, indigenous, funk, acoustic and alternative rock influences subtly shine through her compositions. The difference between the development and place of musicianship today in comparison to years gone by is disheartening, but Josie restores your confidence that music can be connecting, it can be real and it can touch people the way that it should.
Listening to her sing, her voice fills a room and it has rawness and uniqueness to it that as you try to compare her to others, you just can’t do it. The best way to describe it is soul, spiced with a classic rock vibe and a touch of vibrato husk that hits you in the face and leaves you asking for more.
In this 2017 contemporary music scene we are bombarded with pop icons and digitally enhanced raves. You can post a You Tube clip and become viral on social media to the point that you attract a lucrative deal. You can risk your talent on a myriad of talents shows or, your fate in the music industry be voted on by the world who either like you or hate you. It’s a tough scene. A scene where you have to be malleable and prepare to be poked, prodded and scraped into whatever the music industry decide you need to be.
The key is to stay true to who you are. To not be afraid to be individual, to explore and find the talents within you, to butt the norms and be real, takes drive, passion and letting go. Josie embodies these values so perfectly. We are glad that Josie found her authentic path and we can’t wait to see the developments ahead for this musical master.