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Kirsten Te Rito

Composer, Performer


Kirsten Te Rito is a vocalist, songwriter and music producer from Wellington, from Ngāti Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine iwi.

Kirsten was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, to a Māori father and Pākehā mother. As a child and into her teens she studied both music and dance with piano, guitar, saxophone and voice lessons, as well as tap and jazz ballet; moving into musical theatre as a young adult while searching for her creative identity, partaking in stage shows throughout New Zealand and performing in the Disney musical The Lion King in Melbourne and Shanghai.

After returning home from working in China, Kirsten turned her focus to creating original music and collaborating with her husband – jazz pianist James Illingworth.

Since then, Kirsten has released two Māori language albums; TE RITO and Āiotanga. In 2012 Kirsten took home Best Female Māori Artist award at the Māori Music Awards and her song Oranga won the highest airplay of a Māori song for two years running. Her album TE RITO was a finalist at the 2013 NZ Music Awards in the Best Māori Album category. Āiotanga won Best Maori Pop Album at the Waiata Māori Music Awards 2016 and she won Best Māori Urban Artist. Āiotanga was also a finalist for the 2016 NZ Music Awards for Best Māori Album and her song Tamaiti Ngaro was a finalist for the APRA Māioha Silver Scroll songwriting award.

In between touring with several bands Kirsten has been writing, recording and producing new music in her home studio with her husband James Illingworth. Currently they are producing a five-track Māori language electro EP titled Kaitiaki, due for release during Matariki 2019.

Together, they are also currently working on writing and producing music for a new electronic duo project titled ILLRIOT, merging James' abilities as a skilled jazz pianist with lush synth keyboards, Kirsten’s catchy vocal melodies with her love of vocal production, along with production and mix input from Australian / South African producer Cam Bluff (Amy Shark, Bliss n Eso, Hilltop Hoods).

Over the years Kirsten has worked with many bands, including The Little Bushman and the NZSO, Wai, Rob Ruha and Australian hip hop band Bliss n Eso. Kirsten and her husband James are the proud owners of a platinum record for their work on the album Circus in the Sky by Bliss n Eso with over 70,000 album sales. Kirsten also worked on their subsequent album Off The Grid and has been touring with the band for the past five years.

Listen to Kirsten on Spotify

Recordings (2)