Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Arts Festival Review: Tuwhare

Tuwhare

Reviewed by Tyler Hersey

Tuwhare
March 11 - 13
8pm
Town Hall


An underlying creative spirit connects all artistic endeavours, be they musical, literary, or visual. Unfortunately, these disciplines are often locked into solitary cages by audiences, and indeed, by artists themselves. For Tuwhare, Wellington singer/songwriter Charlotte Yates has braided together the threads of music and literature by commissioning twelve of New Zealand’s most distinguished aural artists to create musical settings for the works of Maori poet Hone Tuwhare.

With one foot in the King James Bible and the other planted firmly in shaggy Otago paddocks and the local pub, Tuwhare’s poetry reconciles higher human nature with earthly reality, fantasies of the soul seen in broken roots and rusty cans. The challenge for these twelve artists lay in the fact that Tuwhare’s conversational, colloquial free verse is not a perfect fit for song lyrics, and the humour with which his pen vibrates is easily lost amongst moody musical settings

For this project, Yates has gathered an extremely eclectic group of artists, both Maori and Pakeha, from several generations of New Zealand’s musical community. From the spare piano and euphonium setting of ‘Rain’ by folk rocker Don McGlashan to the pulsing electronics and dance of WAI’s “On a theme by Hone Taiapa,” the songs differed greatly in instrumentation, presentation, and intent. Originally conceived as a compact disc (released in May of 2005), Tuwhare has become a splendid live show, with extensive narration by Whale Rider actor Rawiri Paratene. Although the intricate historical commentary (penned by Yates) did prove tongue twisting, the actor’s warm portrayal of Tuwhare’s wit and wisdom brought the author to life before our eyes.

Early on, singer and songwriter Whirimako Black led the audience on perhaps the most striking musical exploration of the evening. Her piano and vocal setting of ‘Spring Song’ wandered through perhaps two dozen chords, a cyclical, spiralling journey that climaxed with amazing strength and grace like September’s change of season. Her vocals were outstanding, ringing through the Town Hall with a clarity that pierced the night, in the same way that spring’s ‘sun and worm quicken the earth’s blood / loosen stiff tree limbs / and bird tongues from the hoar frost’s clutch.’

A self-described singer of sea shanties with harmonica and guitar, Graham Brazier moulded my favourite poem of the evening, ‘Friend’, into an intimate confessional of lost imaginings. ‘Allow me to mend the broken ends of shared days,’ he sang. ‘But I wanted to say / that the tree we climbed / that gave food and drink to youthful dreams / is no more.’ The simplicity and sincerity of Brazier’s solo arrangement seemed to hit the emotional heart of Tuwhare’s writing, the lonesome howl of his harp becoming wind through dead tree branches.

Introspective acoustic contributions from McGlashan and Hinemoana Baker contrasted greatly with all-out rockers played by Yates and Auckland pop band Goldenhorse. The latter two songs, portraying Tuwhare’s more soul-searching and defiant poems, added a welcome dose of rhythm and drive to an evening that often meandered through moody reflection. Yates’ version of ‘Mad’ perfectly captured the intensity of Tuwhare’s rumination on impatience and expectation with keening vocals and aggressive drumming by Darren Mathiassen. To close the show, Goldenhorse pounded through a riff-centred setting of ‘O Africa,’ with singer Kirsten Morell’s passionately quivering vocals embodying the all the desperation of a protest poem. ‘All bloody acts,” she sang, ‘that make less human / mankind’s brighter sun / let revulsion rise / Eclipse the moon’s black evil.’

Ultimately, this collection brings to mind the question: is there really a difference between poetry and song? Or are they just part of the same fabric? Linguistic considerations, such as Tuwhare’s lack of rhyme and repetition, obviously presented a challenge for some of the artists involved; many extracted certain lines to be a chorus, chopping and editing as necessary to create traditional song structure. But just as this group of songwriters has gained artistic inspiration from the poet, so did Tuwhare from his long associations with painter Ralph Hotere and woodcarver Hone Taiapa. All artists, we find, use the same human materials: emotion, toil, reflection, and instinct.

*********

NZ Arts Festival: Tuwhare
Scoop Full Coverage: Festival 2006

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news