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No. 26 (March 1959)
– 18 –

AN APPRECIATION OF “MAORI”

“MAORI’ certainly is the best of entertainment. It is a show which should make us proud that Maoris are New Zealanders.”

So stated the Otago Daily Times of Dunedin when the show visited that city. This is typical of the comments by press and public alike all over the Dominion. Too often in the past Pakehas have had their views on Maori music and culture coloured by ragged improvised performances which only reflect poorly on the race as a whole and on the things they are trying to portray. “MAORI” should set a standard to be aimed at by all future concert parties. I personally have seen Maori concert parties which are as talented as this but I have never seen a Maori concert group which recognised, as this one does, that 50% of the success of any stage show lies in the attention given to presentation.

Good lighting, good movement on and off stage, confident mein of soloists, good costuming, teamwork—these are the things which make for a polished show and “MAORI” has polish. The teamwork for example was shown by the lack of extravagant posturing amongst the male performers in the action songs. This often mars concert performances because it attracts attention to a few at the expense of the overall effect. The individualist who makes funny faces from the second row of the group was also refreshingly absent.

The two major faults with the show at present are the introducing of the items and the printed programme. The former is too sketchy but an improvement in the latter would make further verbal introduction superfluous. At 1/- the programme booklet was very poor value. A golden opportunity was lost to produce something of souvenir value with the items fully explained and the origins and significance noted. Six pages (2 ½ of them advertisements) for 1/- is quite exorbitant and it can be argued that an audience which pays a fairly high admission fee has the right to know, without further charge, just what it is going to see for its money. Something much better than this will have to be produced for overseas audiences.

It was possible to feel some misgivings on looking at the programme and finding out that a portion of the items would be popular pakeha “hits”. Fortunately these fears were groundless. These items were quite short and were particularly well received. Indeed they successfully illustrated an important facet of the Maori character—their flair for imitation and for ebullient good spirits. One Wellington critic however cavilled at the use of the guitar to accompany many of the songs and dances. This surely is a case of just not facing the facts of life! The guitar is as much a feature of the modern Maori musical scene as the koauau was of the old.

“MAORI”, whilst primarily an entertainment, also has a secondary aim—that of presenting the Maori race to the audience. On both counts it is singularly successful. “MAORI” is good entertainment and good public relations for the Maori race. We wish it every success for its performers are ambassadors for the whole country.