Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 62 (March 1968)
– 60 –

RECORDS

It was during the early 1950s that I first became interested in collecting Maori recordings—not very long ago really. I well remember scouring Rotorua for suitable records. As the heart of the Maori aspect of the tourist industry, it was virtually the only place where such discs could be bought. The selection was very limited and they were all old 78 r.p.m. 10 inch discs which today are almost museum pieces to the young fry. Columbia had a number of recordings by the Rotorua Maori Choir which had been first issued in the early 1930s. Parla phone featured Ano Hato and Dean Waretini and the Tahiwis and that was about all available. Later Tanza (a label now long defunct) and HMV recorded several groups which included the Ardmore Training College Maori Club of the day, and the Heretaunga Maori Choir, while Stebbing featured the Rangitoto Maori Choir of Auckland.

Then came a break-through. The first longplaying record of Maori music was, as far as I know, a Columbia series of three 10 inch LPs of the old Rotorua Maori Choir material. This was followed later by another Columbia release of the concert party which toured Australia in the late 1950s. Kiwi were soon on the scene with several 10 inch LPs which included a record of considerable historical interest. This was a re-issue of material recorded by the Revd Seamer's concert party which toured the United Kingdom with great success at about the time of the coronation of King George VI. Kiwi also issued the first 7 inch EP of authentic Maori music whilst Viking had the first Maori stereo record, of a group known as the Mauriora Maori Entertainers.

Since those comparatively early days of Maori LPs the local record companies have now issued in the vicinity of a hundred Maori records, stereo and mono, and in the 7 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch sizes (although 10 inch are now no longer issued). Kiwi and Viking have been the most prolific with other records bearing the HMV, Columbia, Parlaphone, Zodiac, Stebbing, and Pye labels.

Of recent date Maori record buffs will have noted a new label on the market, offering a number of quality recordings of Maori and Pacific Islands music. This label is Salem issued by the Salem Record Company of Wellington. Since their first record came on the market in October 1965 this enterprising young company have released some fifty LPs and 45 EPs and a number of records are currently in the course of production. Of their total listing about 75% are Polynesian and the remainder are described by Denis Bailly. one of the two partners in the firm, as middle-of-road country and western type music.

In the last twelve months Salem have built up a good export market throughout the Pacific. Not many of the records exported are New Zealand Maori, although there is a modest demand for them from Hawaii. Salem's other Polynesian records are naturally in demand in their island of origin. Salem make their contacts with island groups through agents in the islands and in some cases send a team to an island to seek out and record local talent. They also welcome queries from within and outside New Zealand from groups aspiring to record.

I have asked Salem and other companies whether perhaps the field is not almost saturated for at least the time being for New Zealand Maori music. However, they tell me that there is a very steady if not spectacular demand locally for Maori recordings and the sales represent very much the quiet bread and butter income which is so important to record companies. There is little doubt that the local companies have done a wonderful job in the last few years of bringing all types and standards of Maori performance to a wide public both of local people and of visitors to these shores. They have also given many Maori groups the means of obtaining a permanent record of their own efforts and an opportunity to hear, and learn from, the efforts of other groups. This can help them greatly to widen and improve their own standards.

Record Review in this issue of Te Ao Hou examines three recent Salem releases, one Maori and, for comparative purposes, two from other parts of the Pacific.

THE MAGIC OF MAORI SONG

Salem XP 5025 33½ 12in. L.P.

This record features ‘The Polynesian Studies Group’. Unfortunately it does not say which Polynesian studies group or give any information about the group at all, which is a great pity. Unless I am very much mistaken this is

– 61 –

the Polynesian Studies Group of the Wellington Teachers' Training College and the record represents a very good effort indeed from a group which includes only four Maoris and three Pacific Islanders. The remainder of the membership of some 26 students are Pakeha.

The quality of the recording is excellent and words come through very clearly. The singing is good and there are some very pleasing harmonies. The record itself, with fifteen tracks, represents good value and quite a wide selection. Each side includes two numbers from the Cook Islands. These include ‘Nga-Pu-Ariki te Vaka o Ru’ a canoe song from Aitutaki, well known to New Zealand Maoris as ‘Toia mai, Toia mai te Waka nei’. It is good to hear local groups turning their attention to the music of their first cousins (if not brothers) in the Cook Islands. The Cook numbers are very well done except for some slurring in ‘Mauri Tikitiki’, a song from Manihiki, which shows that not everyone was certain of the words.

Of the Maori numbers from New Zealand, ‘E Rui’ or the locust song is one of the best. The main flaw is the sketchy nature of the cover notes. I mentioned in my last review how it has been forcibly brought home of late that it is usually the actual group being recorded which is at fault in this respect. A group such as on this record could have been expected, I feel, to provide reasonably comprehensive explanatory notes to the items. This would have greatly increased the average listener's understanding and enjoyment of the record.

WELCOME TO RAROTONGA

Salem XP 5008 33 ½ 12in L.P.

This record is even more devoid of cover notes than the previous one, which is saying something. Since I am not familiar with Cook Island music I was better able to appreciate the frustrations of many listeners when they buy and listen to a Maori record without any information provided on the cover. The music on ‘Welcome to Rarotonga’ is very agreeable indeed but it would have been good to know just what it was about, what the occasion of singing was and a few details of the performers. Each of the twelve tracks except two is provided by a different group. These groups rejoice under such intriguing titles as ‘The Blue Boys’, ‘Harringtons Staff’, ‘Vakapora Boys’, ‘Avatiu Teenagers’ and others. Who and what are they, one wonders?

– 62 –

Star of the record is Teata Makirere, a very pleasant light tenor who sings two solos ‘Koe, koe, koe’ (You. you, you—the well known pop song) and ‘Come Back to Rarotonga’. If Teata was in New Zealand he could soon be a rave on the local pop scene I would think, judging from what I hear on this record. There is one female solo and two duets, one featuring Teata Makirere again. There is also an instrumental item and a drum dance and the remainder are group singing. The items are full of vitality and because of the different artists used provide plenty of variety. It is interesting to compare the music with New Zealand Maori music. The Cook music is much less sophisticated and shows less European influence. As an introduction and welcome to Rarotonga this record is very agreeable.

AN EVENING IN THE ELLICE ISLANDS

Salem XP 5033 33 ½ 12in L.P.

This is an example of Salem enterprise in bringing to us the sounds of Polynesia. It comes from tiny Funafuti, a small coral atoll which is the chief island of the Ellice group and its centre of administration.

The disc was recorded out of doors during a festival evening. The music is fresh, unsophisticated and perhaps a little difficult in its entirety for the average European to appreciate and enjoy. As the first commercial recording of Ellice Island music of the traditional variety and largely untainted by outside influence it has, however, a definite place in the library of all who collect and take an interest in Polynesian music.

Traditional Ellice music as heard on this record is accompanied only by the percussion of log drums, clapping, floor thumping and the like. As in most of the islands the four gallon kerosene can is a popular secondary accompaniment. There are also several tracks by a small group who are accompanied by guitar and ukalele. They represent the move by the younger people towards the European pop world.

The record cover gives a thumbnail sketch of the locale of the recording and talks engagingly of the ‘creeping tide of civilisation’ and ‘western culture with all its evil by products’. Unfortunately the actual items are only named Their significance and content is not discussed and this robs the record of a certain amount of its undoubted value.