From the moment they arrived on stage to greet a packed audience, we were willing and enthusiastic guests at what the quartet described as the “biggest Maori garage party”, where songs ranged from medleys of the well-known to original compositions, all delivered with precision and an extraordinarily energetic stage presence.
The singers are admirable ambassadors for their own culture. They began by teaching us the Maori greeting “Kia Ora”, and throughout there were words, phrases and entire songs in the Maori language.
One of the standout songs pivoted on the word “Aroha” (love) which showcased their individual talents as well as maintaining the familiar banter that passed between them throughout – if it was rehearsed, then it was skillfully done to retain its originality, and the audience was always part of the conversation.
We were also unobtrusively educated about New Zealand’s history and culture. Songs about the ANZAC spirit and New Zealand’s notable number of strong women over time (culminating in current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern) were met with genuine enthusiasm and spirited applause.
Each member of the quartet takes their turn at lead vocals and introductions, and there is a wealth of skill in their ability to move smoothly between vocals and the guitars and percussion box which comprise their musical backing.
If this quartet really did originate from the garage party, they have come a long way, while still retaining the warmth and engagement that you would enjoy at a spontaneous musical night with friends. They have produced a CD, That’s Us, and now travel the world bringing their unique style to many different cultures. Adelaide Cabaret Festival has welcome Maaka, Francis, Matariki and James, and hopefully they will return with their original waiata (music) before too long.
This audience wasn’t willing to let them go without an encore and the lively queue for CDs afterwards was testament to a performance that no-one really wanted to end.
Modern Maori Quartet can be seen at The Banquet Room, Festival Theatre, until June 11. Read more InDaily Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.
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