MEET THE MAORI
Viking VPX 257 12 in, 33 ⅓ LP Mono with booklet
Booklet-cum-records such as this have much to commend them. All too often, Maori Music is presented in a colourfully illustrated cover with a list of titles on the reverse, which are quite meaningless to the average non-Maori listener, and without a word of explanation to distinguish an action song from a haka taparahi. For all the uninitiated know, these could be Incan fertility rites!
‘Meet the Maori’, however, goes a stage beyond the simple explanation on the record cover. It shows (in black and white), performers doing the types of items featured on the disc, along with a simply written explanation of the origin, significance and
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method of performance of each type of item, and then deals specifically with the particular song or dance on the recording. These items appear to have been selected to illustrate all facets of Maori musical activity. Thus there are karanga and powhiri, poi dances, stick games, a karakia, a nose flute item, a Maori alphabet song (to illustrate the Maori language), a chant, hymn, haka taparahi and several action songs.
This is of course not the record to buy if one wants a good old sing-along in Maori and indeed it has no pretensions in that direction. However, the items are tuneful and easy to listen to and the more traditional numbers are not presented at length. The record also features a number of different groups, thus avoiding the sameness of approach often heard on a record containing only one party.
With so much to commend about this record, what a pity that Viking, in selecting the colour photographs, did not maintain the standard. The front cover depicts several heavy-weight ‘warriors’ in close up, posturing at one another in a half-hearted way, their faces adorned with bogus and badly executed tattoo. The two-page centre spread is even worse. A collection of elderly ladies — the combined weight of which in the aggregate must be considerable — are shown in front of a rather seedy meeting house. There are also several men in the group, the most conspicuous of whom is not making any attempt to perform the actions. He wears no piupiu or waist mat but only trousers rolled up to the knees under a cloak — ‘not a pretty sight’, as they used to say on the old Goon Show.
If you overlook the coloured photos, however, this is a well put-together and recorded production which should fulfil a need. For those whose interest in Maori music is a little more than average it offers a neat package of text and recorded illustration.
MEET THE SAMOAN
Viking VPX 12 in. 33 ⅓ LP Mono with booklet
This is doubtless intended as a companion to the previously reviewed recording. However, there are some significant differences. Firstly the text, which in ‘Meet the Maori’ deals almost exclusively with Maori song
and dance, is, in this booklet, giving a kind of tourist-eye view of Samoa under such chapter headings as ‘The Two Samoas’, ‘Historical Notes’, ‘Meet the People, ‘Sining, Dancing and Sports’, ‘Let's go to Feast’, ‘The Kava Ceremony’, etc.
The text itself is in light-hearted vein, yet packs quite a bit of information into four large pages. In comparison with ‘Meet the Maori’, the illustrations are in colour throughout and although the captions are brief, they do seem to capture the mood of Samoa and its people.
The description of the items on the record is also somewhat sketchy. They are mostly modern songs and feature a number of groups. Played directly after ‘Meet the Maori’, this record does highlight the contrast in the musical styles of the Maoris and Samoans. The Samoan tends towards the Melanesian style of singing with its tight harmonies and numerous short verses of different words but the same tune. The items are primarily in a light-hearted and foot-tapping vein (Sample titles in English; ‘How happy I am’, ‘Wiggle Wiggle’, ‘Vision of a Lovely Girl’). Indeed the record well illustrates a paragraph of the text which says:
‘Nowadays it is difficult for the visitor to tell whether he is watching a performance of genuine Samoan singing and dancing or a local adaptation of something from Waikiki, Tin Pan Alley or Papeete. Samoans, with the typical Polynesian genius for adaptation, quickly shape to their own uses any aspect of another culture which appeals to them. This has happened in religion, games, dancing and music — particularly the latter. However, whatever the importation, it always undergoes some modification which appropriately adapts it to fa'a Samoan — The Samoan Way’.
In this characteristic genius for adaptation, the Samoans are indeed very much akin to their Maori cousins!