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A Tribute to the Maori Showbands of Yesterday

A Tribute to the Maori Showbands of Yesterday

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Photo copyright Nuki Waaka

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There's only nine days to go till the first-ever public launch of the 2006 New Zealand International Arts Festival programme. To get things rolling the Festival has announced one of it's key New Zealand musical events: Maori Showbands - Taking on the World.

Created especially for the Festival, this tribute concert sees one of the original showbands, The Maori Volcanics, reunite and a new showband formed for two nights of great musical entertainment, toe-tapping and cheering.

"The Maori Volcanics blew me away when I saw them perform at Te Papa. They are such skilled musicians whose stage presence is tremendous, they instantly built a great rapport with the audience. These concerts promise to be loads of fun," says Carla van Zon, the Festival's Artistic Director.

NZ Idol judge Frankie Stevens will MC the event. A past showband performer himself (The Maori Hi Fives), he'll also be singing with Waimihi Hotere in a special ten-piece tribute band, The Maori Allstars, headed by musical director Manny Abrahams. The second part will feature The Maori Volcanics, one of the greatest of the Maori showbands, starring Mahora Peters in a special return season from their base in Sydney.

The Maori showbands were a generation of performers that exploded onto the New Zealand music scene during the '50s and '60s. Including past legends such as Prince Tui Teka, Dalvanius Prime and Billy T James, the performers drew on many styles - rhythm and blues, Hawaiian music, show tunes - but were much more than dance bands. They created their own unique genre with a mix of off-beat comedy, clever stage routines and displays of distinctively Maori song and dance. They went on to make their mark on the world stage where they were acclaimed for their unique entertainment style and talent. The Maori Volcanics travelled to the USA, Vietnam, Israel and around Europe.

Sponsored by Transpower and with support from Te Waka Toi, Creative New Zealand, the Wellington Town Hall will be transformed with cabaret style seating for the shows, allowing the audience to dance to the hits from the '50s - through to the '90s and celebrate this momentous era in New Zealand's music history.

For those audience members who recall the magic of those times, these concerts will refresh memories. Those who haven't experienced the Maori showbands before will discover through these concerts the enduring appeal of these talented entertainers.

The entire programme of Festival events will be revealed on Wednesday 2nd November at the Festival's first-ever public launch. Join in the festivities at 5.45pm in Civic Square Wellington, be entertained by Goldenhorse and other local acts and be the first to know the exciting Festival 2006 line-up, which features more than 100 events handpicked from the best the world has to offer. The programme will go live on the Festival's website www.nzfestival.telecom.co.nz from 6pm that evening.

Internationally recognised as one of the world's leading multi-arts festivals, the New Zealand International Arts Festival presents a three week feast of dance, fine and popular music, opera, visual arts, literature and multimedia events this coming summer (24 February - 19 March, 2006) in the capital city.

Other highlights already announced include: Oscar-winning Chinese/American composer Tan Dun's new opera Tea: A Mirror of Soul for three performances during the opening week.

The UK's renowned composer/conductor James MacMillan visits New Zealand for the first time to conduct his own work Quickening in a programme that also includes works by award-winning New Zealand composer Ross Harris.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham (The Hours); French trapeze artists Les Arts Sauts, who present their death-defying and magical show in a 28-metre-high inflatable dome; and Alan Bennett's award-winning play The History Boys, directed by Nicholas Hytner (whose theatre and film successes include The Madness of King George and The Crucible).

Further information about Maori showbands: Several bands from the era went on to make their mark on the world stage, travelling to Las Vegas, Hawaii, Vietnam, Israel, Australia and around Europe, where they were acclaimed for their talent and unique entertainment style. Great bands such as The Quin Tikis, The Howard Morrison Quartet and The Maori Hi Fives, with their rich harmonies and musicians versatile enough to play several instruments skilfully, made the showbands era a high point in the development of Maori popular music.

An illustrated book about the Maori Volcanics was launched in September 2005 as part of the Maori Writers Festival. Co-authored by founding Maori Volcanics member Mahora Peters and award-winning novelist James George, the book contains anecdotes and information about the showband era.

"1967 and the Maori Volcanics were about to perform for the first time in Japan. The plan was to perform a haka as the stage was raised from the floor below. But the weight and the rocking motion of the haka was too much and the stage came to a halt half way up. In the kind of flexible professionalism the band was renowned for, the boys grabbed their saxophones and launched into 'In the Mood'," recalls Mahora Peters. "We looked up to see our audience all peering down at us and dancing around. It took 10 minutes to fix it before we finally made our entrance to a standing ovation. Do you know anyone who gets a standing ovation before they even start?"

Te Papa first ever online exhibition, Maori Showbands is also live at: www.tepapa.govt.nz/maorishowbands/maori_showbands.html

"They were so unique," says exhibition developer Pamela Lovis. "They had fantastic showmanship - the music, the professionalism, the way they put their routines together, the dedication and all the heart and soul behind it really grabs people. They were such dedicated performers, so disciplined, and just huge personalities. Also the humour - that aspect was very appealing to people."

Performance dates: Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 Mar, 8pm, Town Hall, Wellington

ENDS

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