As a small child Tipare slept in a cot that doubled as her late father’s guitar case. Chris Piper’s band The Mangrove Boogie Kings were an Australian favourite – country legend Slim Dusty even wrote a song about them. Her mother was equally influential, albeit from another side of the music game. “She got a day job, at Schubert Sound Systems,” a live sound equipment supplier and rehearsal facility in Hollywood, where Linda Piper worked for over a decade, catering to the likes of The Eagles, Michael McDonald, Fleetwood Mac, Mega Death, New Edition and Snoop Dogg. Welcome to Tipare’s school of rock.
Her musical education hit another gear in the teenage years, as she headed out into the midst of the emerging West Coast beats culture, making friends with the likes of Pharcyde and going to tiny clubs to see acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Digital Underground, Tupac and Wu Tang Clan.
With so much music in her life it was no wonder that she began to write lyrics, and to sing, but it was Aotearoa, (New Zealand) not Hollywood, that formed the most memorable musical milestones. One such moment “was singing in a show at the Te Kuiti community hall where my dad and nanny Te Huinga (whom have both passed) were at, and having one of the koroua (Male Maori elder) of my iwi come up to me after and saying “you did good, girl!”
Hollywood was followed by New York, where she did a stint touring with the legendary Steely Dan as an assistant. The big apple brought new influences. “It’s where I grew up, mentally, emotionally and artistically because of the exposure to so many different types of art.”
Tipare returned to New Zealand at 21, the first time she had been home since she was 8, and got “swept up” by her kuia (Female Maori elders). “That’s when I got renamed”. She was known as Jesse before one of the Kuia looked at her and decided she had the essence of an ancestress, also called Tipare. A tipare is something that protects and adorns your head, which is tapu (sacred) in Maori culture. “It’s perfect for who I am and the life I live. I needed that name. ” She is now legally Tipare Jessica Piper Iti. The last name is from her marriage to Toi Iti, her partner and collaborator.
Much has happened since the pair got together, starting a family, making a range of Māori programmes for TV, and dealing with the imprisonment of Iti’s Political Activist father, Tame, as part of the infamous Tuhoe terror raids.
In fact, the upheaval of those raids partly inspired her new single Backbiters, a song that showcases Tipare’s fierce nature, as she pokes the stick at the peddlers of judgment and gossip.
Tipare’s world is a world full of music, hip hop, culture and politics – a world that began with a baby in a guitar case, listening to the sounds of The Mangrove Boogie Kings.