Modern Ma¯ori on not-so-se­ri­ous tour

The Napier Mail - - CONVERSATIONS - GLENN MCCON­NELL

The Modern Ma¯ori Quar­tet, a some­times comedic oc­ca­sion­ally se­ri­ous party band, has had a baby.

The four Ma¯ori lads re­vealed their first orig­i­nal al­bum on Fri­day, ti­tled That’s Us!, and kicked off a na­tion­wide tour im­me­di­ately.

Not one to un­der­state his ef­forts, the quar­tet’s new re­cruit - Fran­cis Kora of roots band Kora - ex­plains how get­ting their first al­bum out is just as hard as giv­ing birth.

‘‘It’s just like hav­ing a baby! You’ve got to make the baby, then the baby comes out and you have to look af­ter it and care for it.’’

He’s bet­ting this tour will be just as gru­elling as car­ing for a new­born.

The band’s mu­sic is re­flec­tive of the old times – an up­dated throw­back to Ma¯ori show bands of the 60s’ such as the Hi-Marks and The Howard Mor­ri­son Quar­tet. The quar­tet say this is the mu­sic they grew up to.

Yet this is not the mu­sic their peers lis­ten to. As the band hits the road in two vans, pass­ing through 14 halls and theatres, they ex­pect to be greeted by ‘‘mostly mid­dle aged Pa¯keha and a lot of aun­ties and nans’’.

And that’s ex­actly the au­di­ence they were look­ing for.

The band, mostly all now in their late 20s, grad­u­ated from the New Zealand Drama School in Welling­ton, where James

Tito ex­plains ‘‘you tend to get to know who the Ma¯ori and Pa­cific ac­tors are’’. There aren’t too many, and they weren’t keen to live out their ca­reers as ‘‘cliches like the best mate, bouncer or crim­i­nal’’.

‘‘So Matariki [Whata­rau] said at the time, ‘Ma¯ori love to sing and Pa¯keha love to pay Ma¯ori to sing’. It was just a per­fect busi­ness plan, re­ally,’’ Tito says.

And that’s how the band came to­gether to re­lease their first al­bum of cov­ers in 2014. It did pretty well, and so they’re back with the Modern Ma¯ori Quar­tet’s de­but orig­i­nal al­bum.

The mu­sic – like Shine, a ‘‘song for all the kids in the world’’ writ­ten for Kora’s daugh­ter Coco – is in­of­fen­sive, fam­ily friendly stuff.

The al­bum also tack­les top­ics like heart­break with the ti­tles Don’t Fall in Love and Come to Me.

Maaka Po­hatu de­scribes their mu­sic thus: ‘‘It’s just re­ally pos­i­tive and slick. There’s the hu­mour el­e­ment to it too, O¯I sup­pose, but it’s re­ally fam­ily ori­en­tated.’’

This is the type of show their mates buy tick­ets to and take their aun­ties, the band jokes. That wide as pos­si­ble ap­peal means the band will play in al­most ev­ery re­gion in New Zealand. There are shows in wine coun­tries of Marl­bor­ough and Napier, as well as the cities and beach commu- ni­ties like Po¯ran­ga­hau.

‘‘If we want to spread the love or what­ever, to do it from Auck­land is kind of ex­clu­sive and we’re not ex­clu­sive - we’re for ev­ery­one,’’ Whata­rau says.

But Whata­rau adds a caveat. ‘‘Yeah, bring your Nan! Just make sure your Nan is ready to get hit on,’’ he jokes.

It is, re­port­edly, an in­ter­est­ing time at these shows.

Some­times there are ka¯umatua cry­ing in the stalls, ‘‘say­ing ‘oh they just don’t make mu­sic like this any­more’,’’ the band says.

Other times kids will be run­ning up and down the aisles af­ter be­ing dragged along by the aun­ties, along­side their less en­thu­si­as­tic un­cles. And other times, the band re­ports, the older crowds in these re­gional theatres can get a bit crazy.

‘‘Not a lot of those smaller com­mu­ni­ties get much com­ing to them,’’ Whata­rau says.

So, is it ac­tu­ally fam­ily friendly?

‘‘Ma¯ori fam­ily friendly,’’ he says.

‘‘You love your kids but you’ll tell them to f... up from time to time, it’s on edge. You know, the line is a bit fur­ther to the left or...’’

The band later sum­marises that quote to say it’s a pos­i­tive show, but it’s truth­ful and some­what satir­i­cal.

‘‘Even the suits,’’ they say, are a throw­back to the old times but not to be taken se­ri­ously.

Hamil­ton - Sept 17, Play­house. Po¯ran­ga­hau - Sept 27, Me­mo­rial Hall. Feather­ston - Sept 28, An­zac Hall. taki - Sept 29, Me­mo­rial Hall. Napier - Satur­day Sept 30, Mu­nic­i­pal The­atre. New Ply­mouth - Oct 6, The­atre Royal. Welling­ton - Oct 7, Welling­ton High School, Ri­ley Cen­tre. Taupo¯ - Oct 8, Great Lakes Cen­tre. Whangarei - Oct 13, Cap­i­taine Bougainville The­atre, Fo­rum North. Auck­land - Oct 14, Crys­tal Palace. Whakata¯ne - Oct 15, Lit­tle The­atre.

PHOTOS: CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

The Modern Ma¯ori Quar­tet’s tour in­cludes a per­for­mance in Napier on Satur­day.

‘‘So Matariki [Whata­rau] said at the time, 'Ma¯ori love to sing and Pa¯keha love to pay Ma¯ori to sing'. It was just a per­fect busi­ness plan, re­ally’’

James Tito

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