Easter Break and Celebrations

It is almost the end of the university Easter break, which I so often wrongly refer to as “spring break” even though we are rapidly descending into winter here in New Zealand. Because my Māori culture class was on hold for two weeks, I had the opportunity to travel around New Zealand a bit. A highlight was completing an awe-inspiring 14 km hike in the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (unrelated to music, I know, but I’ve decided to put a picture up anyway because it was so beautiful).

During the Easter break I had also planned a visit to the Takitimu Performing Arts School in Hastings. Here I had the opportunity to speak with the chief executive officer of the school, Tama Huata, who also happens to be the founder and director of the Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre, the Executive Director of the Māori Music Awards, and a former Fulbright scholar who travelled to the US! The Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre is a Māori performing arts group that travels to North America, Asia, India, Australia and throughout New Zealand, sharing the vibrancy of Māori culture with people around the world. Check out their bebo site. The director and some of the dancers that I was lucky enough to meet and speak with have incredible stories from their tours, and have easily visited more states in the US than I have. An interesting observation that they made about the US was that we have great celebrations, such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving.

Well it’s true that I am going to be a bit homesick when the 4th of July comes and goes with no recognition here in New Zealand, I think that New Zealand does not fall short when it comes to celebrating. Not a week goes by in Auckland when there isn’t a lively rugby game, a cultural festival, or a dozen live music performances. My favorite so far has been the Auckland Festival, a biennial arts and culture festival that brings together music, dance, theatre and visual arts. Some of the highlights that I was able to attend included:

  • Taonga: Dust, Water, Wind, a Māori contemporary dance performance. The dancing was beautiful, but I was most excited to see the legendary Richard Nunns performing traditional Māori instruments live in rhythm with the dancing.
  • Inia te Wiata Tribute Concert, a celebration of the life of Māori performer and carver Inia te Wiata. This event featured performances from some of the most well known contemporary Māori musicians, including Inia’s daughter, as well as a kapa haka performance, illustrating the breadth of the Māori music scene.
  • Ladi6: Formerly of an all-girl hip hop group from Christchurch called Sheelahroc, Ladi6 is a soulful R&B singer who has recently released a debut solo album. The collaborative nature of the New Zealand music scene was clear when Ladi6 pulled two friends from the crowd to perform with her, including Paora Apera (aka P Digsss), the vocalist of a popular live drum and bass group, Shapeshifter.

  • The countdown starts now to the next big New Zealand celebration: New Zealand Music Month. It should be a busy month of performances, conferences and celebrations, and I also plan to return to Hastings to spend some more time at the Takitimu Performing Arts School. Check out the New Zealand Music Month website and let me know if there are any events you think I should definitely attend!

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