reviewed by Alan Armstrong
This record features the Ohau Maori Youth Club of Rotorua. Although founded only in 1962 this club has gained quite an impressive reputation, having successes in prestige competitions at Tauranga, Ngaruawahia and Hamilton. At the invitation of the Toowoomba Rotary Club of Australia they performed some time ago in both Queensland and New South Wales. At the time of making the record they were holders of the Orakau Centennial Commemoration Cup.
Perhaps anticipating criticism of the record, the cover notes say, somewhat defensively, that ‘the true strength of any performing group can best be measured by its success in open competitions’. This is somewhat debatable, since some clubs make a specialty of competitions and others avoid them entirely, but the Ohau Club (and any others which record) will be heard and judged by a far wider audience through the strengths and weaknesses revealed on a recording than would be possible from any competition. Certainly a record critic can only go on what he hears on the disc and this record will unfortunately do little to enhance the club's doubtless well-deserved reputation. Overall, the record is very disappointing. There is a noticeable lack of light and shade and very little finesse or polish in any of the items.
Some criticism of specific items, which it is hoped are constructive, are as follows. ‘Toia Mai’ on Side 1 degenerates into a competition between the women doing an action song and the men doing a haka. This combination of different dance forms just may be acceptable on the stage but in a record it sounds a mess. The club should have made up its mind as to whether it wanted an action song or a haka and then performed one or the other. ‘Haruru Ana’ on Side 2 is a ragged and, at times, unmelodious duet to a hummed accompaniment by the whole group. The female singer keeps up her end of the duet but the male singer seems unsure of his words and falters badly in one or two places, to the point of tailing off altogether. There are also two haka on Side 2. It would be too harsh to say they were dispirited but the tempo is pedestrian and there is no bite when the performers come in after a call by the kaea. In ‘Whakarongo Mai’ (called on the record cover ‘Ringa Iwhiua’!) the performers seem uncertain of the words and trail away into rumblings at the end of several lines.
The attack in ‘Karu’ is often ragged. To guarantee crisp presentation on a recording, chants and choral pieces should be conducted. It is not of much consequence perhaps in a stage performance if someone is late starting a line, but with a recording there is no visual distraction and the ear hears more. Furthermore the microphone picks up errors which could never be detected otherwise. A record is played over and over and an error, once enshrined on a disc, keeps coming back to haunt every time it is replayed.
The record cover is most attractive but alas, the story on the other side is somewhat different. There are some ludicrous mis-spellings of the items, such as ‘Naruru
Ana', ‘Ere e Poi’, ‘Ringa Ipuia’, and none of the individual items are described. This seems indicative of a shoddy approach to the whole venture. Clubs must supply record companies with accurate spellings and descriptions of their items if they want the record in all its aspects to reflect credit on themselves.