POI AND PIUPIU
Kiwi Mono-Stereo SLC-63 12 in. 33 ⅓ L.P.
‘Poi and Piupiu’ features the Queen Victoria School for Girls Maoritanga Choirwith Hannah Tatana as guest soloist. In recent years there has been something of a surfeit of recordings of groups of Maori female singers, mostly school groups, but this record is indeed a welcome addition which must rank as amongst the best, if not the best, of recordings by all-female groups.
Side one consists in the main of poi and action songs. One hesitates to use the word ‘traditional’ to describe such a recent development as the action song but there are some action songs which are rightly regarded as classics because of the fact that they have cut across tribal boundaries and survived and been performed long after the occasion of their composition has passed. ‘Te Ope Tuatahi’, ‘E Pari Ra’ and others of the songs on side one come into this category. In the poi items the sound of the poi comes through beautifully and throughout all the items the singing is controlled yet flowing. One has the feeling that in this choir there are no passengers. I am glad that two chants have been included. Although ‘Takere Poua Ra’ and ‘Taku Patu’ are not samples of the true Maori chant of pre-European times they are reminiscent in form of the ancient style whilst containing sufficient melody to make them acceptable to twentieth century ears. As such they give listeners an easily-digested introduction to the more traditional Maori music.
I particularly enjoyed the girls singing the seldom heard Tamati Hamapere composition ‘Karo’. This is one of the songs of Alfred Hill, Karaitiana, Kaihau era which produced many lovely Maori songs which are all too rarely performed nowadays. ‘E Pari Ra’ disappoints a little. It is belted out rather mechanically and with none of the poignant harmonies which can highlight its theme of lamentation and farewell. ‘E Tihei Mauriora’ is described as ‘another song composed at Queen Victoria School’ whereas I would think it more accurate to describe it as ‘another song, the words of which were composed … etc.’
Side two is full of contrast, both with side one and between the various songs featured. The choir's rendition of ‘Waiata Poi’ with Hannah Tatana as soloist must be rated as one of the best on record of this old favourite. This is followed by Miss Tatana and the choir singing ‘Hine Mokemoke’ (The Singing Shell), a song composed by Susi Robinson Collins on an East Coast legend. The melody is restful and the choir sings it as a lullaby in English. Mari Hamilton's ‘Patu Poi’ is heard next. This lilting little song with its tripping rhythm is sung mostly in English with occasional Maori phrases. In complete contrast ‘Patu Poi’ is followed by a grace sung in Maori. This grace was specially written for the school by Phyllis Raudon, a visiting singing teacher of many years' association who is responsible for the original settings and musical arrangements of many of the items heard on the record. ‘Waiata Whaiaipo’ is another little known item which is of interest because of its difference from the usual Maori love song. It is short and very fast and one conjures up visions of the breathless suitor gasping out his feelings in a few seconds snatched alone with his love.
There are many tunes called ‘Poi Waka’ but Queen Victoria's version has a rhythm which captures the dip and swing of the paddles better than most. This item is followed by a beautifully sung ‘Titiro Mai Nga Whetu’. In the hands of the choir this song becomes a powerful prayer of exaltation and triumph with occasional shafts of sadness as it expresses the feelings of those who made their landfall after their ‘long and arduous journey’. The finale is provided by a skilful and fresh interpretation of ‘E Rere Ra te Matangi’. The modulation in the second verse adds a further note of sadness to this lovely song of fare-well. The finishing touch to this song would have been provided by a soloist but alas, Miss Tatana is nowhere to be heard!
The cover is attractive and the notes and explanations of the items of the high standard one has come to expect from Kiwi. One small carp, however, is that although
the record is called ‘Poi and Piupiu’ and features a number of poi items, nowhere on the cover are these two words explained. A brief reference to the excellent cover photo which shows members of the choir clad in piupiu and twirling their poi would have been sufficient. In presenting records, and indeed Maori culture in general, we often assume a knowledge of (to us) commonplace things which the average tourist and casual buyer of souvenirs does not possess.
Verdict: A first rate recording.
MOODS OF THE MAORI
HMV CSDM 6258 12 in. 33 ⅓ L.P.
This is a sample of the type of Maori record which all companies put out from time to time — a pot-pourri of items, most of which have usually appeared on records devoted in whole to the particular group featured in the excerpt. It is an inexpensive way of putting together a new record and has the advantage for the casual buyer of variety of item and presentation. The album cover of ‘Moods of the Maori’ claims this to be a ‘unique collection’. I personally would substitute the word ‘undistinguished’ for unique. The notes go on to say, ‘… one may still hear the ancient love chants, poi dances, action songs and warlike hakas performed at any Maori pa’. This implies to me a country dotted with traditional Maori villages wherein one can wander at will and expect to hear a simple folk tilling their soil and performing haka and what-have-you with gay abandon. HMV would be well advised on future records to leave out such inaccurate nonsense and concentrate instead on notes which give some genuine information about the performing groups and their items instead of just their names.
Side one begins with Hukarere Girls' College singing ‘Karu’. This is followed by the Waioeka Maori Cultural Group performing ‘E te Tau’. This is an item totally lacking any merit whatsoever. Personally I believe that this type of item degrades Maori culture. It starts as an action song. An obtrusive guitar belts out the rhythm in a style reminiscent of a steam hammer. In the middle of the item the group switches to English and for the rest of the time asks ‘Do yer lerve me, do yer, darlin’. Te Aute Maori Boys' College follow with ‘Hine e
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Hine’. The harmonies and singing are generally good in this item but it is marred by poor timing in some lines and a consistent inability to sustain the notes at the end of lines. The boys then perform a haka.
Hukarere Girls come on again with an action song in which half the performers try to drown the other half by endlessly shouting ‘karanga’ on each beat. Waioeka return to redeem themselves slightly with ‘Te Marama i te Po’ and ‘Pakete Whero’. However, the items are jazzed up and sadly lacking in grace and finesse. Ngati Poneke ends side one with an innocuous little vocal group singing ‘Haere Ra’. This is hardly representative of a group with such a high reputation in the choral field but it is a fitting conclusion to a very disappointing side.
Te Aute Boys lead off side two with ‘Ruaumoko’, a classic haka which is all too seldom heard on record. This could not be called a definitive rendition but it is quite competent. Waioeka presents an insipid and rather confused performance of ‘Wiata (sic) Poi’. Ngati Poneke's second contribution is labelled as ‘Takiri’ but is in fact ‘Tahi Miti Toru e’. Hukarere follows with a pleasant but overly strident collection of hand game calls sung to various tunes, including ‘Banana Boat Song’. The disc improves with the last three items. ‘Takahi Ra’ by the Hukarere Girls is catchv with some good singing. Te Aute finish off with a pleasant solo and chorus, ‘Tangi Mai’, and a spirited action song, ‘Tihei’.
There is quite a striking photograph on the front of the cover but somehow I found it symbolic that the predominant colour on the reverse side is black.
Viking Stereo VP 260 12 in. 33 ⅓ L.P.
This is indeed a Maori record with a difference. I do not imagine it will have a great
equally renowned college goes on record with this offering from Te Wai Pounamu Maori Girls' College at Christchurch.
Te Wai Pounamu is the only boarding school for Maori girls in the South Island but its attendance is by no means confined to South Islanders. Girls from all over New Zealand attend Te Wai Pounamu because of its standard of teaching of Maori language and culture. The majority of the girls attending the college participate in concert party and other Maori cultural activities.
The result of their labours is heard on this recording. It is a good one. There is of considerable interest. One must avoid some fine singing and the items featured are carping criticism I know, but after listening to the record I could not but help grieve a little for the fact that it could so easily have been even better and I am inclined to put more than half the blame on Kiwi. To begin with the soloists seem too far away from the microphone while the guitar is often obtrusive. This is something which is easily corrected by microphone placement. The choral items have not been conducted and there are a number of distressingly ragged starts, particularly to ‘Koutou Katoa Ra’ and to ‘Po Atarau’. The group is at fault here. One cannot afford to leave matters to chance. In making a record, every mistake is enshrined forever. When watching a group on stage there are so many distractions that imperfections usually go unnoticed. There is no ‘instant replay’ to confirm a barely heard error. With a record the ear can concentrate, undistracted by messages from the eye. Every time the record is played, a mistake comes back to haunt. I often feel that Maori groups before they go on record need a good producer to whip them finally into shape, to listen critically to a record as it is made, and to insist on a 100 percent performance before the item is passed fit to go on disc. Hence my strictures on Kiwi above. I am sure that every pop group that records has a producer. Amateur groups recording need the same service even more. Furthermore, what else but the lack of a producer could explain the short track on Side Two which according to the label should be ‘Au E Ihu’ but which is, in fact, half the verse of ‘Koutou Katoa Ra’ which is recorded in full three tracks further on. This is inexcusable.
The record features quite a wide selection of items and a good mixture of the old and new. My favourite on Side One is an interesting powhiri performed with care and precision. I also enjoyed one of the good ‘old’ action songs which is seldom recorded—‘Ko Wai Enei’.
The cover is well designed and, as always with Kiwi, the notes are good.
NEW ZEALAND MAORI THEATRE TRUST
Kiwi Mono SA-72 7 in. 45 r.p.m.
It was unfortunate that only a few centres were able to see the round of farewell concerts before the Maori Theatre Trust left for its world tour in 1970 which included Expo in Japan and appearances in Russia. Any reader who did attend one of those concerts will, I am sure, remember with pleasure two of the highlights from the Trust's repertoire—the inspired miming of ‘Karu’ and the saucy insouciance of ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’. Now this little record will enable everyone to savour these two items.
Paul Katene is not widely known outside of Maori musical circles. He is a musical arranger of talent and his many arrangements of Maori songs are original and polished. His arrangement of ‘Karu’ with its transitions from major to minor key, its changes of tempo and haunting harmonies is undoubtedly one of his best. The Theatre Trust's performance on this record is without peer amongst the many recorded versions of this so-called ‘fishing chant’.
In complete contrast, on the flip side is ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head’ from the film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. Stan White's solo is ‘number one’ and the backing from the chorus smooth and competent.
SONGS AND DANCES OF THE MAORI
Combined Concert Parties of St Joseph's and Hato Paora Colleges
Kiwi Stereo/Mono SLC 65, 12 in. LP 33 ⅓ r.p.m.
Ever since their memorable ‘Songs of Maori Youth’ (reviewed Te Ao Hou Issue No. 55) this critic has been eagerly awaiting a return of the combined concert parties of St Joseph's and Hato Paora. If I say that this second record is not quite as good as the first, it is not to deny, however, that it is still a very good record indeed.
Side One opens with four action songs by the combined parties. Here is full blooded Maori singing, crisp and tuneful, although after hearing all four items, one after the other, one is left with the impression that perhaps the singing is a little too disciplined. Some of the items are too long. In ‘Manu Rere’ and ‘Pa Mai’, where two verses are repeated a considerable number of times, the effect is monotonous because each verse is exactly the same as the last. Somewhat less discipline, more light and shade and variation in the interpretation of the verses would have helped. ‘Taku Patu’ is the best of the action songs because the groups seem more relaxed and spontaneous and there is the occasional interpolation by an individual performer to help things along a bit. Following the action songs, the girls take over with three poi items. The best of these is the final one, which is a medley of songs and provides more interest than the previous two which repeat one song a number of times.
Side Two begins with ‘Pokarekare’. This is a very pleasant version with male and female solos and good backing from the combined choirs. The boys of Hato Paora then take over with four haka—‘Ulaina’, ‘Poutini’, ‘Ka Mate’, ‘Ringa Pakia’. Accustomed to the breakneck pace at which many groups perform their haka, the listener may feel at first that Hato Paora's haka are pedestrian. However, they are performed with fire and passion. Above all, the words are beautifully clear. There is all too often the tendency nowadays in haka for the words to be slurred and mumbled and regarded as secondary in importance to the actions. This is a great mistake which Hato Paora are at pains to avoid. All haka are the expression of a message. The words convey this message and the actions are almost a vehicle—a means of emphasis which say little in themselves. If the message does not reach the audience, and this is particularly important on record where actions cannot be seen, then the whole thing is meaningless.
Side Two continues with two stick games which gain in interest from the fact that the listener can also hear the click of the sticks. ‘Po Atarau’ brings the record to a close. Cover notes include excellent thumb-nail sketches describing what each type of item looks like. This is of inestimable value to the non-informed buyer.