A Record from
Ngati Poneke Club
‘Songs of the Maori’ Ngati Poneke Young Maori Club
HMV MCLP 6187 12in 33 ⅓ LP
Ko Ngati Poneke hoki matou,
He iwi taitamariki,
He pani no nga iwi o te motu.
We are members of Ngati Poneke,
Young but ever hopeful,
We are orphan members of the tribes of Aotearoa.
Collectors of Maori music have had to wait almost thirty years to obtain a full-scale commercial recording of this, the oldest Maori cultural group still in existence with a record of unbroken service. This durable group has old boys and old girls spread throughout the length of New Zealand, and it has won a welldeserved reputation for consistent excellence of performance in the cultural field, as well as having a noble record of public and patriotic service. Its successes in Maori competitions throughout the years would fill this page, its services to Maori youth are legion, its lists of members and ex-members read like a Who's-Who of Maoridom. Now all of those who have ever experienced the matchless spirit of this great club, along with those who merely enjoy good Maori entertainment, can enjoy a record which ‘features a variety of the most popular, moving and classical items’ which have brought Ngati Poneke fame.
Having said all this, I should add that this record does not do full justice to Ngati Poneke, as all who have seen them perform will testify. For example I should like to have heard at least one of the formal choral arrangements with which the club has won the Wellington Competitions Society's annual Maori Choir Championship both years since its inception in 1963. There are no peruperu on the record, nor any of the poi which have always featured prominently in their concert performances. However in place of these there are some of the finest action songs of the Maori people, which have always been regarded first and foremost as Ngati Poneke's own (for no other reason in some cases than the fact that over almost thirty years they have performed them constantly and well).
A notable feature of most of the numbers is the clarity of diction and enunciation in even the most spirited action songs. I listened particularly carefully to ‘Waikato’, for the complex wording and syncopation of this song are often the downfall of less-experienced groups. Ngati Poneke sailed through it in fine style however. ‘Ringa Ringa Pakia’ unfortunately has a tendency to flatness. In ‘Pakia Kia Rite’ there appears sometimes to be variation between the tempo of the men's and women's parts; this mars it somewhat. ‘Whakarongo Mai’ is the better of the two haka taparahi featured, and is free of the rather high-pitched screeching by the kaea which comes out several times in ‘Ka Mate’, featured as part of the opening powhiri.
All in all, however, the record offers some lively renditions. Ngati Poneke's repertoire is fortunately free of the dreary dirges which seem of late to be sapping the vitality of the modern action song, where a tendency towards languid tunes has produced some pretty spineless offerings. I think however that all Maori groups which intend recording in the future should be warned that by this time ‘Tahi Nei’, ‘Manu Rere’ and ‘Po Atarau’ have become played out and are fairly and squarely in the hackneyed class. Let's make Ngati Poneke's the last record on which we hear these items for some time.
Technically the recording is good even though a little better balance would have ensured that the women members of the group were heard more prominently. The cover design is excellent and the cover notes adequate and free from mis-spelling.