Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 73 (July 1973)
– 58 –

RECORDS

‘MAUI'S FAREWELL’

Kiwi Stereo/Mono SLD-15 33⅓ rpm 12in LP

‘Maui's Farewell’ features Inia Te Wiata in a ‘dramatic verse monologue’ by the Wellington writer, Dora Somerville. Mrs Somerville is coyly reticent about her curriculum vitae because she feels that biographical details are ‘irrelevant to an understanding of her work’—which similarly appears to be a somewhat irrelevant reason for not including such details on the record cover! ‘Maui's Farewell’ was first published as a hand-set limited edition of 150 copies in 1966. Reviewing the publication in the New Zealand Listener, James K. Baxter, the late reigning guru of local writers, said, somewhat obscurely, that ‘The effect is not one of pastiche or macaronics but something like a rendering from an unknown Maori text. It is always her wit that saves her: a wit close to that of the Maori spirit itself, robust, ironic, and in the final origin, metaphysical.’ This is good stuff in the great tradition of New Zealand literary criticism which holds that it is less important to consider the work per se than to dazzle the reader with the critic's own wit and brilliance and to impress with his own erudition. Baxter was correct, however, when he likened a portion of the work to a Maori text. The story is told with typically Maori humour and Maui's exploits are embroidered by Dora Somerville's imagination in a wholly convincing way so that it is difficult to know where the Maui of traditional legend stops and the Maui of Dora Somerville begins. Maui as a true Maori hero is thus brought to life much more vividly than has been the case in published accounts to date of the Maui myth.

‘Maui's Farewell’ gains much more as a dramatic production than as a mere text to be read. However, there are also disadvant-

– 59 –

ages inherent in being able to savour the work only with the ears. Mrs Somerville has made many allusions to Maori legend and mythology and there is much use of Maori terminology which will be unfamiliar to the majority of listeners. Without the text it is therefore difficult to carry out the study and research necessary for a full understanding and appreciation of this remarkable reconstruction of the Maui myth. It is a pity that an annotated copy of the text could not have been included with the record.

As a dramatic production, the record is good. It was produced by William Austin of NZBC fame. According to the cover, Mr Austin is ‘a firm advocate of the premise that radio drama is a unique art form, and that a maze of complex devices is less likely to arouse the imagination of the listener than “placement” of the solo actor and employment of a variety of voice textures ….’ Translated this means that Austin has dispensed with frills and let the soloist do the work. He has succeeded well and he is ideally served by his soloist, Inia te Wiata. Te Wiata is superb. The rich and varied cadences of his voice sustain the drama from start to finish and make the conception of the hero Maui reciting his own exploits entirely credible. He is a master at evoking the atmosphere appropriate to the varying moods of the drama.

So much for dramatic production. As pure drama, however, ‘Maui's Farewell’ is less successful. Rightly or wrongly most listeners will have a mental illusion of how the speech of a pre-European Maori would translate into English. We expect rolling phrases and a certain majesty, perhaps even pedantry, of expression. Thus such phrases as ‘elbow grease’, ‘This was something big’, and ‘Now I am going to opt out’ are grating to the ear. They offend our sense of convention and jolt one from the world of the ancient Maori into the 20th Century of IBM etc., where people talk of opting out and ‘getting the message’ and ‘Let's get the facts straight’ (more of Mrs Somerville's phrases). Again some of the imagery almost verges on the incongruous. Maui speaks of putting ‘a spoke in the wheel of the sun god’. The wheel was of course unknown to the ancient Maori and this evokes a sense of the ridiculous. So much of the language is rich and appropriate that it is a pity that the odd apparently careless turn of phrase mars the total effect. It may be that Mrs Somerville has made a deliberate attempt by the use of modern colloquialisms to bridge the gap of time and to link her tale of days gone by with the world of modern technology. However, if such is her intention, it does not come off. Although we willingly suspend belief to hear ‘Maui's’ words on the modern all-electric talking-type gramophone (as Spike Milligan would say), most listeners will baulk when ‘Maui’ comes out with some of the phrases quoted above.

Nevertheless, the overall effect of Maui's Farewell as recited by Inia Te Wiata is rich, satisfying and full of interest. Inia Te Wiata and Dora Somerville together have brought Maui and his legendary world of long ago to life.

WEST INDIAN SPIRITUALS AND
FOLK SONGS

Kiwi SLC-70 Stereo-Mono 12in LP 33⅓ rpm

This is the last record made by Inia Te Wiata before his death. It is a selection of West Indian spirituals and folk tunes from the collection of the famous West Indian singer Edric Connor, Inia's friend for many years. Inia learned the songs from Connor and featured them in many of his concerts and broadcasts during which he came to understand them intimately. With their mixture of tripping gaiety and crushing sadness the songs give tremendous scope for the range of Inia Te Wiata's voice and his talent for acting and the dramatic. He is also admirably served in his accompanist, Maurice Till.

‘Ogoun Belele’, a chant with religious connotations, allows Inia to demonstrate the richness and power of his voice at the lower end of its range. ‘Murder in de Market’ is a song from Barbados. It shows a strong Elizabethan influence in its melody which seems strange when one considers the origin of the song. ‘Death, O me Lawd!’ is a West Indian Negro spiritual. It is sombre and powerful to

– 60 –

begin with and is then transformed into tripping vivacity as dark thoughts of death give way to exultation at the idea of resurrection. In this it reflects the mercurial character of the community from which it comes.

‘Lord's Prayer’ is yet another setting of this most universal of prayers. It is full of the pathos and tenderness of a people who really live their religion. Worth special mention on Side Two is a West Indian carol ‘The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy’. It is a beautiful hymn of faith to which Inia Te Wiata does full justice. The record concludes with four American negro spirituals: ‘Didn't it Rain’, ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, ‘I Got a Robe’, and ‘Deep River’. These are in contrast to the West Indian songs which reflect their African origins and retain strong themes of gaiety and insousiance. Such ideas are almost totally absent from the American spirituals which are adaptations of European tunes heard during the dark days of slavery and are generally redolent of their sufferings.

The final spiritual ‘Deep River’ is a poignant epitaph to Inia Te Wiata himself in its expression of the longing of a man who seeks entry to a promised land ‘where all is peace’.

TOIA

Ode Stereo SODE 017 12in LP 33⅓ rpm

HE TOA TAKATINI

Ode Stereo SODE 007 12in LP 33⅓ rpm

These are the first Maori records from a new label on the local record scene. ODE records are produced by the Ode Record Company of Wellington. This company is run by Mr Terence P. O'Neill-Joyce as, according to him, ‘a one-man band’. Mr Joyce is undoubtedly an enthusiast and when one talks to him one cannot help but be impressed at his desire for technical excellence in the records he produces and his interest in producing even better Maori records in the future. Mr O'Neill-Joyce does not feel that the market for Maori records is saturated. ‘There will always be room for good records’, he says.

Sound-wise both these records are very good indeed—clear as a bell and with excellent stereo effect which enables the listener to really feel in the same room with the groups concerned. The record covers are somewhat scanty in detail about the items but they are most artistic and striking. The photographs are also Mr O'Neill-Joyce's work.

Toia’ features the Patea Methodist Club under the Rev. Napi Waaka, one of the young giants of the Maori cultural scene. The record has its faults. The first is a slightly obtrusive guitar accompaniment for many of the items. The second is a woeful over-reliance on European pop tunes. I know those who read my record reviews regularly must think that I have something of a ‘thing’ about this business of using Pakeha tunes for Maori songs and perhaps I have. The use of Pakeha tunes is a long established convention and it has its place. However, I deplore their use on records because a record buyer, particularly if he is an overseas visitor, who buys a record under the impression it features Maori music, feels really cheated when he finishes up with a collection from Tin Pan Alley to unfamiliar words. My second objection is because it is largely unnecessary. There is an increasing body of original music by Maori composers which should be used by groups who want to find tunes for their words. Doubtless in a live performance a current pop favourite to Maori words is appreciated and even welcomed by audiences and performers alike but even at public concerts it should not be overdone and it is certainly overdone on this record.

On the other hand perhaps one should not ‘fight the problem’ too much but instead sit back and get as much enjoyment from listening as the Patea Methodist Club obviously gets from performing. There is no doubt that much of the record is really foot-tapping stuff. However I cannot help but wag a finger at Patea because they can obviously do so much better. The highlight of Side Two—indeed of the whole record—is Kingi Tahiwi's little chant ‘E Te Iwi E’. There is no guitar,

– 61 –

the harmony is lovely and the singing crisp and disciplined.

A second record please from the Patea Methodist Club but scrap the Pakeha tunes and tone down the guitar!

He Toa Takatini should not be confused with a Kiwi record of the same name, and presumably by the same Waikato group, as both are led by the Rev. Canon W. T. T. Huata. This is a pleasant enough record even if it is largely a case of a rather average group being enhanced by the excellent quality of the recorded sound. However this high quality also tends to point up that there is the odd passenger in the group who pauses for a rest along the way. In particular the beginnings of some of the items are faltering and the group seems to need a couple of bars to get up steam. The whole effect is rather mundane and even the hakas sound a little bit dispirited. Side Two is better than Side One. It features some Paraire Tomoana classics such as ‘Te Ope Tuatahi’ and ‘I Runga Nga Puke’ and the cover pays a graceful tribute to this ‘gifted Maori composer’. There are several lovely solos but the chorus work in contrast is harsh. There is plenty of variety in the numbers which the group has chosen but unfortunately there is a certain sameness about the presentation.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FIRST
NEW ZEALAND POLYNESIAN
FESTIVAL, ROTORUA

Kiwi SLC-115 Stereo Mono 12in LP 33⅓ rpm

Springing from a proposal put to the National Development Conference, the New Zealand Polynesian Festival was organised by a committee of representatives from interested Maori and other organisations under th [ unclear: ] chairmanship of the Rev. Kingi Ihaka and the patronage of the Governor-General. The festival was held at Rotorua in March 1972 and hosted by the Arawa people. Seventeen Maori groups, which had been selected from their districts in prior competition, and six other Polynesian groups took part.

Digressing for a few paragraphs before getting onto the record and speaking as one of the large and appreciative crowd who attended the festival, I must say that the domestic organisation reflected great credit on the Arawa people. It can have been no small task to feed and accommodate such a large number of groups and their supporters. What was particularly impressive was the smoothness of the change of venue when the weather made it impossible to stage the festival out of doors. There were bad patches of course—an Arawa powhiri group dragged from preparing a hangi to welcome the Governor-General and appearing on TV in singlets and football shorts (this must never be repeated); the inexcusable bad manners of certain judges keeping thousands of people waiting for the start of the night performance whilst they finished a leisurely evening meal (whilst the then Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon. Duncan MacIntyre, conducted an impromptu sing-song to keep the audience entertained). However, these pale into insignificance in retrospect when one considers the success of the whole affair. In some ways it was a blessing that the weather kept everything indoors because the hall contained and projected the sound in a way which would not have been possible outside.

It is perhaps appropriate to question whether it is a good idea to hold the festival annually. One fears that it might thereby become ordinary and routine. Also it is an event which requires tremendous effort and organisation and there are few areas which have sufficient maraes to cater for the numbers involved, therefore the choice of venue is very limited. I personally feel it would be best to make the festival a once in two or three years ‘spectacular’. Another point might be to consider whether districts should not be represented in proportion to the numbers of teams which they are able to field in the preliminary selections. Some districts had only a few groups in their preliminaries; Wellington by contrast had thirteen. Yet each district sent two teams regardless (Arawa three because of a tie for second place) to Rotorua. The result was a very uneven standard. The groups which came third and fourth in the Wellington preliminaries (and therefore could not go to Rotorua) would have soundly trounced the second, if not the first, place-getters from other districts. Fif-

– 62 –

teen or sixteen groups in total is the maximum of course but some smaller districts might in future only qualify to send one team whilst larger districts might be permitted to send three. It is a point worth considering.

Two other features are worthy of note. Not only was it wonderful to see the groups from the Pacific Islands performing with their New Zealand first cousins but the Island items were a welcome interlude to the long succession of Maori items. Secondly one must remark on the youth of the performers in almost all the teams. Very few ‘oldies’ took part and this is a wonderful pointer to the interest of our young people in their own culture and an effective counter to anyone to says that Maoritanga is on the wane.

The major activity of the festival was the Maori Cultural Competitions in which each team was required to perform a group of items consisting of entrance, traditional item, action song, poi, haka and exit. There was also a separate choral competition in which each group presented one song. The record will enable many who were not fortunate enough to attend the festival to savour some of the award winning performances selected by arrangement with the NZBC. Although the stereo effect is not pronounced, the sound is good and the usual coughs and snuffles which detract from recordings of live performances, are mercifully absent.

The Waihirere Club of Gisborne leads off Side One with a bracket of traditional items which includes an inspired performance of the great classical haka taparahi, ‘Kura Tiwaka Taua’. Waihirere certainly shows the form which won them the haka and traditional section of the competition as well as the Maori cultural aggregate. Fittingly they are followed by Ngati Poneke who were beaten by Waihirere by a whisker for the aggregate. Poneke's offering is their winning action song which although rather pedestrian when heard rather than seen, is sung with great feeling. The words are beautifully clear. Ngati Poneke's second item is a long poi ‘Poi Porotiti’ which, like their action song, was specially composed for the club by some of its young members. It is good to see young Maoris turning their hands to original composition rather than relying on tired old pops as vehicles for their words.

The Waioeka Maori Club of Opotiki which was third in the cultural aggregate, features an original and interesting action song ‘Ko te Ro’ which has a very traditional ring to it and which represents a turning back to older themes—very worthwhile stuff. In complete contrast, the fourth place getters, South Taranaki Maori Club, churn out a poi item which is described on the cover as ‘composed’ by a member of the club. This is as may be as far as the words and actions are concerned but the tune is ‘Pretty Girl’—pure Pakeha pop—which is a pity. Nevertheless it is spirited and tuneful and obviously enjoyed immensely by the audience to judge from the applause on the record.

Side Two features for the most part a sampling of the choral side of the Festival and contains some of the best Maori and Polynesian choir singing on record for a long time. The first place getters, Te Kauri Maori Club of Auckland, sing Evan Stephens' ‘Kia Kotahi Tatou’. This is a splendidly disciplined performance with well rounded singing and delicate degrees of light and shade. Recalling the irritating noise in the hall on the actual night which bedevilled all the choir singing, we must be grateful that the extraneous noise seems to have been filtered out of the recording to a large extent. Ngati Poneke's ‘E Te Matou Matua’ (The Lord's Prayer) is an interesting contrast. They were second place getters in the choral. The item is less vivacious than Te Kauri's but there is good opportunity for solid rich harmony and fine graduations of volume.

The Auckland Samoan Group—third equal in choral competition—provides a beautifully sung traditional item ‘Mua O’. The style of singing is somewhat different to that of the Maori groups but no less effective. It is rich in its texture, and there are some delightfully contrasting passages between male and female voices. The final choral number and the one I enjoyed best was from South Taranaki with a sprightly version of ‘Te Ariki’. There is some excellent canon singing and the voices are well controlled with some lovely harmonies except for a rather sour final ‘amine’.

The final item is Waihirere's action song ‘Te Arawa, Nahau Ra te Karanga’, an origin-

– 63 –

al item by the club's outstanding young leader Ngapo Wehi. Waihirere is a superb group to watch but ever since reviewing their first record years ago I have never felt that records do them justice. This item is marred by some very strident female singing—there is one particularly dominant voice—although this could be due to microphone placement.

The only cavil I have about an otherwise excellent record is that there was not space for at least one of the excellent cultural items by one of the Pacific Island groups. Perhaps Kiwi is planning another record featuring this material? There would be great interest I am sure in hearing the contrasting styles of the various island groups on the one record.