SONGS OF MAORI HEROES
Ma-wai-hakona Maori Association
Kiwi SLC-78 12in 33⅓LP Stereo/Mono
‘Songs of Maori Heroes’ is undoubtedly one of the most important recordings of Maori music to be issued for some years and represents a major contribution in its field.
To begin with, it is the first record by one of the major Maori cultural groups in the country. Whilst many lesser groups have rushed to enshrine mediocrity on record. Ma-wai-hakona has waited for almost ten years before being recorded. The material for the disc was recorded in an empty school hall. A friend (and member of Ma-wai) on hearing the record said to me that it had ‘not got the warm Ma-wai sound’. This is fair comment and most people who have heard the group in the flesh will agree that it is a very restrained performance. The haka taparahi in particular are subdued. In this respect the record has all the hallmarks of a studio presentation, in which Maoris always seem to be inhibited, but for all this the sound itself is live and vibrant and the words and music have beautiful clarity and precision. The words in particular come through strongly and clearly and there is none of the drone which an experienced listener to Maori groups can often detect and which betokens people in a group who are not fully articulating the words.
The second noteworthy point about the record is that it introduces to a wider public a number of works by several talented composers of Maori music who deserve (as composers) much wider recognition and who will now undoubtedly gain that recognition as a result. The cover notes make the point that ‘… almost all of the items performed by the Association, apart from traditional haka, are original compositions by members…’ Ten of the items are composed by one who is modestly referred to on the cover simply as ‘Te Oka’. He is of course the present Secretary of Maori Affairs and president of Ma-wai-hakona. Jock McEwen. Jock's contributions in the field of Maori language are well known to many but I think some people will be surprised at the variety and versatility of his ability in the field of musical composition as revealed by the record.
Jock McEwen's works on this record are characterised by strong and graceful imagery and a deft and economic use of language. Another feature of his work is the skilful blending within a single song of traditional waiata style and catchy modern idiom. Several of the tunes are based on Island songs. The infusion of a Pacific Polynesian influence into Maori music is most welcome. Many of the items pay tribute to legendary Maori heroes (hence the name of the record). Thus Maui, Hinauri, Tinirau and other heroes and their exploits are commemorated. This gives the items a universality which is not found in a number of recently recorded Maori compositions which are tied to specifically tribal traditions or to single, and often quickly forgotten, events. This should help to guarantee the longevity of much of ‘Te Oka's’ work and enhance its general acceptability in the years to come.
The second principal composer featured is another Ma-wai stalwart, Hera Horvath (Dovey Katene) a much loved presence in Wellington Maori circles. Dovey's work has a light and pleasant touch and her canoe poi ‘Hoea Ra’ is one of the best poi tunes in the Maori repertoire.
The third point of note with this record is that it is possible for Maori and non-Maori alike to really savour the items, because included with it is a booklet giving the words and translations of the items. Thus it will be possible for other groups to learn these excellent compositions, hopefully to use them also (but see below) and for students and other interested persons to read the Maori and compare it with the excellent English translations and to understand the imagery and allusions which are explained
in footnotes. This is a most worthwhile accompaniment to the record, and Kiwi and Ma-wai are to be congratulated on including such a bonus.
Almost all the items are musical or waiata style; however, each side of the disc concludes with a traditional haka. On the first is the Haka of Tohu which many will know as ‘Mangumangu Taipo’. The end of Side Two is notable because it features ‘The Haka of Te Rauparaha’, well known for its final ‘Ka Mate, Ka Mate’ portion. This is possibly the first recorded performance of what is a major taparahi of considerable traditional importance. Interested readers will find the generally accepted account of the origin of this haka at page 262 of John Grace's ‘Tuwharetoa’, although the words performed by Ma-wai are different in places.
The cover design is undistinguished but the notes (by Te Oka) are excellent. One complaint I have however is the fact that all the original items are labelled ‘Copyright: Ma-wai-hakona.’ My first reaction was that this denotes that the items are exclusive Ma-wai property and not to be performed by other groups or, if performed, a royalty must be paid. Such a move would be unprecedented amongst Maori groups and would certainly have tarnished Ma-wai in the minds of many. The free circulation, use and even adaptation of the works of others has always been a feature of most Maori music and composition. However, Jock McEwen has since assured me that the copyright reservation is really to ensure that in the event of commercialisation* of any of the items, Ma-wai will be given due recognition and if necessary monetary return. This is as may be but I personally feel that the reservation strikes the only discordant note in an otherwise first class record.
The Ma-wai-hakona Maori Association had its beginnings in the fund-raising campaign for the Maori Education Foundation in 1961. A group was formed amongst Upper Hutt Maoris to raise money and from this effort came the decision to form a Maori cultural group to cater for the people in the area. ‘Ma-wai-hakona’ is the Maori name for the Trentham district as well as for a stream which winds through the area. In former times a scoop or hako was used to dip for water. Thus ‘Ma-wai-hakona’ is ‘the stream where water was scooped out’. Almost since its inception ‘Ma-wai-hakona’ has been one of the giants on the Wellington Maori cultural scene and next to Ngati Poneke is the oldest established group actively performing in the area. From 1965 to 1968 they held the Tahiwi trophy for best performance of an original action song in the Maori section of the Wellington Competitions. In 1968 they also won almost all the remainder of the major prizes and tied for the Ngata Trophy for highest aggregate points. The Association has a large membership which although predominantly Maori includes Pakeha and Polynesians from other parts of the Pacific.
New Zealand Maori Theatre Trust World Tour Company
Kiwi SLC-98 12 33⅓LP Stereo/Mono
‘Aotearoa’ is an interesting contrast, soundwise, to ‘Songs of Maori Heroes’ reviewed above. ‘Aotearoa’ was recorded in a Hamilton theatre at an actual concert. Thus it has all the shortcomings of a ‘live’ performance—applause in the wrong place and interrupting the items; a somewhat uneven quality of sound; and audience distraction in the form of coughs, sniffles and shuffles in abundance. At the same time the performance seems to be tremendously spontaneous and alive and the listener gets a feeling of intimate involvement in the performance. Something of the excitement which the audience must have felt on that night is undeniably communicated by the record. I would not for one moment like to say which of two types of performance—live or studio—is superior, except that generally speaking a live performance often
* (That this copyright was truly ‘in the event of commercialisation’ has been shown by the recent release of an adaptation of Aunty Dovey's Hoea Ra as We're the Maoris by Rolf Harris. Note too that the copyright is held in the club's name, not that of the individual composers’.—Ed.)
makes for a patchy recording. However, in ‘Aotearoa’ the performance is so professional that the Theatre Trust Company easily overcomes the drawbacks of live performance and the result is a splendid record.
‘Aotearoa’ is characterised by excellent singing and some truly noteworthy choral arrangements of familiar Maori works by Puoho Katene. Side One opens with a bracket consisting of an action song, a haka taparahi and a poi item. This is followed by one of the best versions of ‘Karu’ ever recorded (Reviewed as a single in Issue No. 70). For me it more than any other item brought back memories of the Company's concert which I attended in Wellington and of the inspired miming of Faenza Rubin in what must also rank as one of the best-ever stage presentations of ‘Karu’. Unfortunately the mere listener will never know anything of this! Perhaps one day, with video recordings… ! For those who want to learn the difficult rhythms and syncopations of ‘Ruaumoko’ this record offers one of the clearest versions of the words on Side One, even though the item is somewhat spoiled by applause in inappropriate places. The haka is followed by Kingi Tahiwi's ‘Aue e te Iwi e’ sung in a fine choral arrangement with Inia Te Wiata as soloist.
An exciting arrangement of ‘Pokarekare’, sung for the love song which it really is and not belted out strict tempo as so often happens, opens Side Two. On this side also, Joshua Gardiner features in two solos sung with great feeling—‘Hokihoki Tonu Mai’ and ‘Hoki Mai ki a au’. These arrangements are backed by the choir. There is also, in complete contrast, a spirited bracket of peruperu ‘Koia Ano’, Kume Kumea', ‘Uhi Mai’, and ‘Kia Kutia’. This is followed by what the cover describes as ‘A beautiful and organic (sic)’ song'. On the cover it is called ‘Hui e Taiki e’ but most people will probably know it as ‘Tangihia’. The Company's recording of ‘E Pari Ra’ is the only sour note on the record. Indeed it is one of the least memorable renditions of this well known song. The tempo is far too fast and the group seems to progressively run out of breath as they near the end. The solo is sung in a curiously strangulated manner! In contrast the following ‘Po Atarau’ has a special poignancy. Inia Te Wiata's voice comes clearly through. It was the last time he sang publicly in his native land, I would think. Overall verdict: A fine record with some insignificant flaws.
About the Group:
The New Zealand Maori Theatre Trust will need little introduction. This is the group which grew from Maori involvement in the 1965 New Zealand Opera Company production of ‘Porgy and Bess’. The Trust was formally constituted in June 1966 ‘to encourage and develop the indigenous culture of New Zealand to a level of sophistication to enable it to be appreciated internationally’. From 1966 to 1970 the Trust struggled against a great deal of apathy, not only on the part of Pakeha art and cultural organisations, but also from amongst those Maori organisations which might have been expected to be its strongest supporters. However, there were some notable successes also. In 1970 came the culmination of a dream for many of the enthusiastic young men who were the leading lights in the Trust. After a rigorous selection and an equally rigorous period of full time training, a world tour company was formed which comprised some of the most talented younger Maori men and women on the contemporary Maori cultural scene. The Tour Company performed overseas in Japan at Expo ‘70 and then carried on to Russia. Hungary and Greece. Unfortunately a continuation of the tour to the United States had to be abandoned. Prior to leaving New Zealand the Company gave several public performances. This recording was of the Company's final New Zealand Concert.
Our record reviewer, Alan Armstrong and his wife, Te Waiehu, are currently living in Bandung, Central Java, Indonesia. Whilst there he will continue to review records for Te Ao Hou as he has done over the past fourteen years from many parts of the world.