Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sounds Aotearoa

I saw Miria George's new play, He Reo Aroha, in Wellington on Tuesday night, with Hone directing. It's a big change after her intensely political And what remains?. This play is a love story and a comedy, with lots of Maori song. It's very charming, particularly for the large Maori audience at Te Papa, who got all the jokes about their community, and joined in the well-known songs. Great to be in the theatre and have a sense of celebration.

During the day, CNZ had given us a showcase of some work in development, both theatre and dance. I always find it tricky to work out what a show is like from an extract performed out of context, but at least I got the chance to see Atamira Dance Company, and to have lunch with Moss and Dolina, who run it. Dolina is pregnant - and tells me about Richard Nunns playing traditional instruments onto the bump. Music is very much related to healing and nurturing in Maori culture.

Wednesday morning saw me get on the plane to Taranaki, in the West. Incredible views of the volcano as we came in to New Plymouth, where Sounds Aotearoa is happening for two days, followed by Womad. Sounds is a combination of more showcasing - this time for music - with a conference about how to develop the NZ music industry. My interest in it is the indigenous work, of course. Richard Nunns played again last night, this time with a singer called Whirimako Black. The dialogue between her voice, singing traditional songs, and his solo instruments, was wonderful. It's also great to be here because there are so many other Festival directors and the like around. It's especially great to see Rhoda Roberts, who until very recently ran The Dreaming. I'm able to give her a copy of the Origins programme, with the article I wrote about her, the festival, and her film. She says it made her cry. I tell her that she'd done the same for me.

I was asked to speak on a panel about touring music to the UK and Europe. Of course, I know nothing about this, so instead I speak about Origins, about the need to hear First Nations cultures in London, and about what music can do in the global space. It seems to go down very well, if only as a break from all the "get your marketing plan right" sessions. As the conference closes, we are taken to a powhiri, where we, and all the artists who've come for Womad, are welcomed onto the marae. It's even more moving than in Wellington, particularly because so many of the international artists reply to the Maori speeches with their own words and songs. Especially, I love what one young black American performer says. His people lost their past in the time of slavery, and could not use their language or sing their songs. Meeting the Maori, and being welcomed to the marae, he felt for the first time in his life that he had a real connection to an ancestry. That he was in a sense, at home.

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