A word with...:
Maaka Pohatu is a member of showband the Modern M ori Quartet – along with James Tito, Matariki Whatarau and Francis Kora. The foursome are currently appearing on M ori TV’s Thursday night show My Party Song where they play music alongside invited local m
Maaka Pohatu and his musical past.
Who are some of the guest musicians on My Party Song this season?
Louis Baker, Bella Kalolo, The Maori Sidesteps, Betty-Anne Monga from Ardijah and Te Awanui Reeder from Nesian Mystic. There is all this amazing (music) royalty. It just felt really special, warm and inviting. We got to jam with them on set.
Where did your love of music come from?
Both my parents are singers and songwriters and I grew up in that kind of atmosphere. Mum says that when she was carrying me, Dad used to sing to her stomach. When I was a baby and they’d have little get-togethers and sing-a-longs, I’d cry in the next room unless they put my cot in the middle of the party.
When did you realise you had a knack or talent for music?
I think I just naturally gravitated towards it because it was around me all the time. (I was) like a little sponge. I never learnt formally. But there were always guitars and stuff around. I watched my father and then I’d go to my cousins and go, ‘What’s that key? Where do I put my fingers (on the guitar)? And they’d go, ‘There, there, there, there, there’. I’d slowly pick up more and more chords. I started to really pick up the basics when I was about 14.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Dunedin. My parents were lecturers at Otago University. Me and my brother grew up on the campus. I went to school down there, went flatting down
there. I tried to go to university and take music as a paper without having studied it at high school at all. Thinking that I’d pick it up and ... I was way out of my depth.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) from Knight Rider. I wanted to be like him and MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) put together. I was like, seriously, that will be so cool. You could have a car that talks to you and then you could solve puzzles and then put together Crunchie wrappers and a rubber band and you’ve made a home-made computer. But I think I really wanted to be an actor.
If you could have anyone’s job in television, whose would you pick?
I really loved it when John Campbell was on and I’d love to be him. Just that laidback ‘Kia ora, New Zealand’. But other than that, in a real sense, probably the guy who does the voiceovers TV. You don’t have to appear on TV or look good. Just sound good. I’d turn up and go, ‘This week on Shortland Street, Chris Warner ...’ I would love to do that. That’s my dream job.
If you could be a contestant on any reality show, which one would it be and why?
Probably something like Wipeout where I wouldn’t have to take myself too seriously. I could go across that obstacle course and get smashed. I’d really enjoy getting knocked over in the water.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Stop beating yourself up because you would never say such mean stuff to someone you cared about as you do to yourself. My dad said, ‘You’ve got to learn to love yourself, boy. But in a real way though, not a conceited narcissistic way. You’ve got to learn to really like yourself.’ That was it. Just be happy with yourself. Accept yourself.
And the worst advice?
One of my well-meaning friends was like, ‘Why can’t you just work in a library or in a florist’s.’ I was like, ‘Do you know me?’ They said, ‘We’re so concerned for you, Maaka because your lifestyle seems to leave you quite tired and I’m worried about your health.’
Do you have any hidden talents?
I wouldn’t say it’s hidden but a lot of people who know me, know that I have this really freak ability to retain film dialogue or lyrics from songs and I don’t even understand how it works. A lot of the time I’ll forget a person’s name or phone numbers or my bank accounts but those other things stay with me and come out at the most random times.
How would your friends describe you in three words?
Loyal, random and talkative.
The Modern M ori Quartet are Francis Kora, Maaka Pohatu, Matariki Whatarau and James Tito.