Anei ra te mihi aroha kia koutou katoa e tuku ake nei i runga i nga ahuatanga. E tau ana te wa ‘hakataa ake nei, ano tohaina ra te mihi maioha. Tenei e tu ana i mua ia koe he uri no Te Rarawa. Tena koe.
LEARNING ABOUT EACH OTHER THROUGH MUSIC
How do we genuinely learn about each other in an information-saturated world that is riddled with online egos, fake news and a thousand-and-one distractions? One song at a time. We're fortunate today because we can listen to music from anywhere, any country, any culture, any community, and connect with people - and if we're especially lucky, we can usher something special in to our own musical spaces. What I love about World Fusions is that when those two world views meet - something like musical magic comes out.
It's interesting how things converge when they need to, in order to make bigger things happen. WAI.TAI was certainly late coming (it's only a few years old) but I think it came at the time that it needed to. For a start, I needed to be ready (I'm still getting ready). But also, audiences evolve and here in Aotearoa there's been a shift in the way that people want to engage with each other and with us. People are open to music that has a kaupapa, a back story, or a goal - even if it's not explicit. Some songs may present a new idea or observe something profound or even simple, but much of the kaupapa lies under the surface. It's not simply about making nice sounds and having fun - it's about connection.
Kaupapa: vision, purpose, motivation, intent
HOLDING THE KAUPAPA STEADY
Maori folk singer-songwriter and taonga puoro tohunga, Hirini Melbourne (Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu) was my tutor for around 6 years. He was a teacher of traditional Maori world views that he put to song and shared for the people of Aotearoa. In my mind, he epitomised the concept of 'aroha'. He is the inspiration that also asks WAI.TAI to tread carefully upon the same pathway. My role is to keep the kaupapa of WAI.TAI visible and hold it steady.
Aroha: compassion, empathy, love, kindness
Our musicians are from all over the country and around the world. How do I support them to stand alongside and to help to hold this kaupapa steady, particularly when for some, their connection with Maori and their identity in general may be tenuous? The answer is two-fold. First, we mirror the way that Maori traditionally carry out rituals of the first encounter - the powhiri. The powhiri allows a time for observation, discovery and negotiation - a korero - and 'sussing out' the intentions of each other. It's a test that if passed, results in one crossing the threshold to meet the other, and to share the breath of life. From there it's an opportunity that has no limits. The second answer lies in the responsibility for each musician to step into this unique 'project' with a willingness to both contribute and learn in equal measure. The best musicians listen, observe and trust - on and off stage. They contribute gently while enabling and honouring the contributions of others. In each moment, they are watching the whole band and asking, is everyone here ok? Perfect music is not the goal. Aroha is.
Aroha: compassion, empathy, love, kindness
Korero: a discussion, a chat
Powhiri: the rituals of encounter, the welcoming and ascertaining of the intentions of visitors
OLD TE REO
Using very old Te Reo Maori and concepts in our lyrics means that those who have spent time at universities or school learning contemporary Te Reo may find some of the words and phrases challenging. Yet, embedded into those old words is a certain rhythm that speaks to this land. The old language shows us a completely different world. It is saturated with imagery and metaphor. It is the language of poets and story-tellers. In one moment, it can take us on a deep dive, stripping away what doesn't matter. And in the next, it thrusts us right back up to the light gasping for air and looking for something irrefutable to hold onto.
Te Reo Maori: the Maori language
A TASTE OF OLD TE REO
In the song, Putiputi, we have "putiputi ataahua to puawaitanga, 'hakaritea koe ki puanga o kowhai e. Putiputi ataahua to rāpupuku e. Manahua i te awatea, kati i te po." Beautiful blossoming flower you are like the kowhai in bloom. Beautiful sprouting flower, you open in the morning and close at night. Just how many ways can Te Reo Maori describe the flower in all of its stages (or, in this case the daughter who is growing from a child to a woman before our eyes)? In the song, He Aha Ra Te Manu, "te manu atu tupu ra, tangata tahu e" is not simply the bird that is sent forth to coax the spellbound desired one back, but the act of having enough mana in the first place to attract the 'one' to come to the lover's embrace with the bird as tour guide! And, in translating some of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds, we don't simply have little birds on our doorsteps, we have "manu tioriori" bringing us pure moments of joyful song to begin our day with, and should we not notice that every day can start afresh in this way, and then should we not realise that we can become our own manu tioriori?