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No. 4 (Autumn 1953)
– 22 –

Maori Musicians are Talented

When I toured New Zealand, leading the Civic Winter Gardens Band, I met a good many Maori musicians, and at various times I have played with some of them, such as the Campbell brothers. I discovered that Maori players have a special musical and rhythmic sense of their own which gives them great qualities for a modern dance band.

Among those I met, I still remember Harry Brown's orchestra in Gisborne, which rather impressed me. In Hawke's Bay there are many first-rate Maori musicians, but a particularly fine one is the saxophone player, Tiger Otene. Good, too, is the Larkins group, working around Wanganui and Palmerston North, and playing over the air from Wanganui. Also from that district are the Tawharu Quintet, who sing like the Mills brothers—with a Spanish guitar and four or five voices—and have often performed from 2ZB.

Auckland is full of Maori talent; there are too many first-rate players to mention them all here. It is odd how often Maori talent runs in families. There is, for instance, the Shalfoon family from Opotiki. Epi plays the piano, and after leading a band in the Rotorua district, is now a band leader and organiser in Auckland. His brother, Tony, is a tenor saxophone player who went to study in the United States, but has since come back. A fine trumpet-player was Phil Campbell, who was killed in the last war. He used to be a member of the Kiwi Concert Party. His brother George is an excellent bass-player and a real musician. He worked in Australia for a while, but is now back in Auckland, and has regular contracts with 1YA. Lou, the youngest of the Campbell brothers, became leader of the Kiwi Concert Party, and had unprecedented runs in Australia. He is the only one of the brothers who took a degree in music, and he writes the scores for the whole of the show.

These are only a few of many I met, and they are all professional players. There could be a really great future for Maoris in music; the talent is there in abundance. You see it everywhere. It is sad to see a man with real talent playing by ear, and often unable even to read music. If such people could only get themselves trained—if they cannot find a teacher, there are plenty of good correspondence courses—they could go a long way. In music, as in everything else, a person cannot really achieve anything worth while unless he is trained.

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