Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Taku poi poro-titi, taku poi e!

One of the greatest songs in Aotearoa (in my humble opinion) is Poi E by Patea Maori Club.
I was with +Te Mihinga Komene yesterday and singing along to the lyrics while preparing for this blog post.  A businessman at the next table overheard us singing and exclaimed that it is his favourite New Zealand song.  You often come across Poi E at sports tournaments such as the Wellington 7's and even this year's inaugural Auckland 9's, when a try is scored.  It's the song that everyone loves and sings quite boisterously during the chorus.

In recent years, Poi E enjoyed a resurgence with the release of the movie Boy (2010) directed by Taika Waititi and his unique blend of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Thriller references.

I have fond memories of this song as I taught it as a set work for my senior music students in Year 13 alongside Pokarekare Ana under the topic Music of the Tangata Whenua.  It also gave the Māori students in my class an opportunity to share their expertise and knowledge of Māori waiata with their  peers - they became the practising ethnomiscologists in this context.  By promoting this way of positive peer culture in the classroom, the Māori students in the class knew that their culture was being valued and they were able to share their personal lived experiences of kapa haka and toi Māori, even delving into taonga puoro.

I also have fond memories of this song as child, being fascinated by the break dancer in his Michael Jackson gloves, if only to see him join his friends in a 'bop line' before doing some more solo breaking.  Having this dancer alongside the female kaea who opened the song with the following lines was also a standout for me:

Te Poi!
Patua Taku Po Patua Kia Rite
Pa Para Patua Taku Poi E!

The story behind Poi E has a wonderful message about Ngoi Pewhairangi, the lyricist, (but also a staunch advocate for te reo Māori) who wanted to write a song for Māori youth to value te reo Māori and their pathways for success. She enlisted the help of Dalvanius Prime who composed the music.  The song is a perfect blend of traditional Māori and contemporary pop music of its time.

It is a timeless classic, it will never age, because the messages in the lyrics stand the test of time - it's about communities valuing who they are, where they come from and their aspirations for success.  At a time when small towns in Aotearoa were trying to survive in tough economic times, pulling together the community through music was one avenue to encourage the youth.

Rere atu taku poi ti ta taha ra
Whakarunga whakararo taku poi e!