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No. 57 (December 1966)
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RECORDS

KOIA ANO (Here we are again)

Kiwi LC-38 331/3 L.P.

This is a very pleasant record featuring some of the best loved songs of Te Arawa Concert Party of Rotorua. This durable group was for many years under the leadership of Guide Rangi. Now the leadership has passed to her protégé Guide Huhana Mihinui, better known in some circles as ‘Bubbles’. Men's leader is Hapi Winiata.

This concert party has recorded previously for another label and I can recall giving the record a somewhat rough passage in Te Ao Hou. The group more than make amends in Koia Ano. Te Arawa Party is one of the few which gives regular public performances of Maori items, and their weekly concerts in the Regent theatre in Rotorua do much to create a favourable image of the Maori people amongst the thousands of overseas visitors who pass through this popular tourist area.

The recording is made during an actual concert but it seems remarkably free of the coughs, sneezes and snufflings which are the usual accompaniment to live recordings. In fact, by and large, this disc has captured faithfully the air of happy informality which is the hallmark of most Maori concerts. Pretty Maori Girl, for example, is performed with great good humour and at the end one can easily visualise the discomforted husband being led off by the ear!

In parts the singing is ragged, mainly in the poi items, where it is a common fault for many groups to concentrate on actions at the expense of words. The rather tinny ukelele accompaniment becomes obtrusive after a time. There are several good solos—Hohepa Mutu in Hine e Hine, unfortunately somewhat marred by an uninspired accompaniment, and Haare Hurihanginui in Pakia Kia Rite. The track featuring hand games is too long for an item which has essentially visual appeal. It is a pity that Putiputi Pai is marred by incorrect words (‘Kuarongo i nga ra’).

The record concludes with the inevitable Po Atarau. In contrast to the usual manner of

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presentation which consists of belting the song out like a quickstep (Goodbye, let's get to h—out of here), the Arawa Concert Party sings the song with the appropriate touch of sadness which makes it what it should be—one of the world's most moving songs of farewell.

The cover is attractive and there are adequate notes on each of the items. Our review copy was mono.

Inia Te Wiata's Festival of Maori Song—
WAITA MAORI

Kiwi SLC 004 12in LP 331/3 rpm

I must say that I placed this record on my turntable with more than a normal feeling of anticipation. It semed to have everything—musical direction by Inia te Wiata, the soloists and cast of Porgy and Bess and some of our best loved Maori songs. It has received some rave reviews in the daily press. Harry Dansey was almost lyrical about it in the Auckland Star. The result is certainly remarkable but I would be less than honest if I did not admit straight away that it is definitely not this critic's cup of tea.

What is Inia trying to do? To make a Maori record with a difference? He has succeeded. To make a record which is faithful to the conception of the music on it and to the musical spirit and traditions of his race? He has failed. To use a trite phrase, the record is just not Maori. The group appears to have been completely brain-washed by performing in Porgy and Bess. Anyone hearing this record out of the blue would be excused for thinking that it featured the Black and White Minstrels.

There is an overall impression of artificiality and striving for effect which contrasts strongly with the usual easy naturalness of Maori singing. Much use is made of controlled dissonance—particularly marked in Karu. If this were used sparingly it could be effective but it is used constantly and before the record finishes it jars and irritates. Part of the trouble also is an almost complete absence of light and shade in the singing. There seems to be little feeling for the mood of the words and many of our most cherished love songs are belted out in the strict tempo. The female singers screech stridently in the upper registers like a chorus of celestial parrots. Isobel Cowan sounds like Ima Sumac in Hokihoki, Sophie Tucker in Tahi Nei Taru Kino and as if she were being slowly strangled in Te Arawa E. There are some regrettable lapses in the versions of the words which are sung, notably E Pari Ra and Hine e Hine (‘Kua ngenge ana koe’).

The guitar-uke accompaniment is extremely obtrusive in many of the numbers. The recording engineers are partly to blame (it was dubbed in Sydney I hasten to add in fairness to local people) for the instruments are far too close to the microphones. The result is that the accompaniment is magnified to the point where it sounds like a banjo band down on the ole plantation. In his singing of the verse of E Te Iwi E Inia takes it real slow as the saying goes, but all along we are aware of a latent strumming in the background. When the chorus is reached, singers and accompaniment combine in a veritable frenzy of sound.

It is sad that for only one fleeting moment on the whole record do we glimpse the tremendous potential of this talented group. In several parts of Aue. E Te Iwi E, there is no guitar and the singing is disciplined and restrained yet full of plaintive harmonies. Alas it is all too short. The guitar lurks in the background and the celestial parrots are ready. We reach the chorus and WHAM! Oh well, back to the plantation.

P.S. It has an attractive cover.

SONGS OF THE MAORI

Viking V.P. 137 33⅓ L.P.

For the most part the record represents a welcome attempt to get away from some of the old chestnuts such as Pokarekare and Po Atarau without which it seems few records can be issued nowadays. The artists are the Ohinemutu Maori Cultural Group, a small troupe of eight under the leadership of Hamuera (Sambo) Mitchell. The recording was made on 26 June 1964 in the famous Tama-te-Kapua Meeting House, Ohinemutu. The material is well assembled and presented and the recording quality is good. Unfortunately with such a small group there tends to be an occasional lack of balance and the material is so interesting that it merits the attention of a larger team. However, it must be admitted that quantity often does not spell quality and Mitchell has obviously chosen a team which he feels will do justice to much of the traditional material presented.

There are some most interesting chants including a splendid chanted lead-in to Pakete Whero. On both sides the inclusion of women singing a love song in modern style to guitar accompaniment is somewhat incongruous but the items themselves are pleasant enough. It is interesting to this critic to listen to recordings from different tribal areas and to note

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that even with modern material there are marked differences in the styles of singing and performance. The characteristic stamp of Te Arawa in general and Ngati Whakaue in particular is obvious on much of this disc.

It is unfortunate that the cover notes give little except the titles of the songs, a eulogy on Sam Mitchell (which the group ‘boasts as its musical director’) and the somewhat cosmic statement that he has composed or arranged everything on the entire record. The space could well have been devoted to notes by Mitchell himself on much of the interesting material which is featured on this disc.

THE NATIONAL BAND OF
NEW ZEALAND

H.M.V. M.C.L.P. 6204 12 in. 331/3 L.P.

There is only a single track featuring Maori music on this record. It consists of what are described as ‘traditional’ poi tunes—Haere ra e Hine ki Rotorua, Haere haere ra e Hine and Poi Waka to be specific—sung to band accompaniment by the Aotearoa Maori Group which performed with the band on its tour of U.S.A. and Canada in 1965. With the band accompaniment the songs sound like revivalist hymns roared out at a street corner meeting rather than ‘traditional’ Maori anything. Six strong Maoris are no match for a 60-strong band and the xylophone and the B flat bass win the unequal contest hands down. All that can be heard from the singers are a few high-pitched yelps as they struggle gamely but unsuccessfully for a hearing. It symbolises rather pathetically the engulfment of Maori culture by that of the Pakeha. Alas! ‘He kapara miti hinu.’

Also Received

Kiwi have sent us their latest catalogue of records 1966/67. Leafing through its pages makes one aware of how much this firm has done to bring quality recordings of Maori music before the public. Some thirty titles of Maori records are listed. There are also a considerable number of recordings and record-cum-books of New Zealand souvenir interest. Kiwi gives tremendous encouragement to local artists in the serious music field and in doing so performs a great service to New Zealand music.

The catalogue is extremely well produced on high quality art paper. It includes photographs of the record cover of each listing, a brief description of the record and sometimes a list of the contents. In many cases critics' opinions of records are quoted.