Thursday kicked off Auckland’s celebration of Matariki, the Māori New Year. Matariki is marked by the appearance of a star cluster in the sky known as Pleiades. It is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future, and its celebration is closely tied to an appreciation of this land, the arts and especially music.
On Friday night, I attended Native Noise 2009 at Auckland Town Hall (Native Noise may sound familiar, as they also sponsored the Waitangi Day concert I attended back in February). This was an awesome concert featuring DJ Poroufessor, reggae bands Katchafire, Three Houses Down and Cornerstone Roots, and headliner Tiki Taane, who performed with a kapa haka group and an incredible DJ, Charlie B. There was also a respectful playing of Michael Jackson hits between sets, a subtle tribute to the passing of an undeniably significant figure to musicians around the world. Nearly every artist greeted the crowd with a warm “Kia ora, whanau”, and the crowd reacted to each performer with generous applause and support. Although the Matariki celebration extends for nearly a month, in the spirit of a new year’s celebration there was a countdown, followed by shouting, hugs and kisses among concert attendees. While I hoped to show some pictures and video, the concert was considered a “taonga”, or treasure to be shared between the performers and the audience, and cameras and recordings were discouraged.
Tiki Tane’s closing set turned me into an instant dub step fan. He opened with an energetic song featuring the kapa haka group, and then went into a long string of dub step. While Tiki has always done dub step, and was formerly the frontman of the Kiwi group Salmonella Dub, his hit single right now, “Always On My Mind,” is a very chilled out, acoustic song. He therefore showed off his shattering of genre barriers and allowed those in the crowd who weren’t familiar with dub step (which may well have been just me) to expand their horizons and appreciate a whole new type of sound and movement. Tiki thanked the crowd at the end for appreciating the heavier stuff and rewarded them with his hit single to close. The crowd left energized and enthusiastic about the evening and the new year.
There is a growing movement here in New Zealand to recognize Matariki more widely, and to celebrate it not strictly as a Māori event, but rather as a New Zealand holiday. Many artists advocate that Matariki could serve as an opportunity for the nation to come together to recognize and honor arts and culture and make plans for the future of New Zealand. This concert was a perfect representation of the potential of a more widely celebrated Matariki, as the crowd was very diverse and definitely not restricted to any one identity. Although the focus was on Māori culture, the general themes of music, community and culture rang true as a celebration of Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Matariki conveniently falls at my midway point of my time here in New Zealand, inspiring me to reflect back on everything I’ve experienced so far and plan what I hope to accomplish in the five months I have remaining. Next semester I plan to take a Māori language course, as a common theme in my interviews so far is how crucial the language is to the culture. I’ll be finishing up most of my filming for my documentary throughout the Northern Summer (it is sadly winter here in the Southern hemisphere) and work on editing and getting the approval of all my participants towards the end of the year. Looking forward to a Rangatahi (youth) Represent concert in Wellington this weekend, a Matariki kite festival next week, and the AUT (my university) Māori Expo in August.
Check out this link to the Matariki Festival page for suggestions on how to celebrate- for a real authentic New Zealand experience, try the mussel fritter recipe.
Cheers for now!