15 Apr 2018

New Horizons: Love Me As I Am

From New Horizons, 5:00 pm on 15 April 2018

William Dart reflects on Auckland Arts Festival’s recent tribute concert to singer-songwriter Mahinaarangi Tocker, who died 10 years ago this month.

Mahinārangi Tocker, Auckland 1991

Mahinārangi Tocker, Auckland 1991 Photo: Geoffrey Smith, commissioned by William Dart for the cover of Music in New Zealand 13 (Winter 1991)

The song 'Te Ripo' was the perfect launch for Love Me As I Am, Auckland Arts Festival’s transcendent tribute to the late Mahinaarangi Tocker, brought together by Tama Waipara.

In Auckland Town Hall, this song took on new dimensions when it was delivered by members of the Tocker whanau, led by Mahina’s daughter Hinewairangi.

The evening hadn’t been particularly labelled as a ten-year anniversary of Mahina’s death, at the far too young age of 52. But, for me, and for many around me, I suspect, it was a timely reminder of the very special place that this woman had and still has across a surprisingly wide Aotearoa community.

The song itself, with its almost impressionistic blend of Maori and Jewish imagery, captures the very essence of Mahina, the life-embracing creative force with a cultural lineage of Maori, Jewish and Celtic that had her playfully title her final album The Mongrel in Me.

For myself, preparing for what was to be one of the musical highlights of the festival, even as an audience member, it was such a joy to once more explore her legacy, remembering the shy but firm young women who met up with me in a Radio New Zealand studio almost 30 years ago, for a conversation on New Horizons. I suspect that I was one of the first to hear some of the struggles and rewards that she experienced early on.

Listen to the full live recording of Love Me As I Am

The concert featured a veritable who’s who of New Zealand music revealing just how much Mahinaarangi Tocker had succeeded. Musicians from Anika Moa, who introduced herself with Mahina’s signature Heart Winds to the hip and elegant Moana Maniapoto, who took us back to the days of the Gluepot, laced with snippets of after-party gossip, the revelation of  Mahina’s exemplary whakapapa and a wry comment on just how tricky her songs were.

For just under two hours, the Mahinaarangi Tocker songbook was laid open and its treasures remoulded, re-created, in some cases re-born through these artists.

The title song of the evening, 'Love me as I am' is a particularly clear-eyed plea, tinted with a strain of stoic disillusionment. Admitting that her rough-and-tumble mind has trouble coping with the truth that lovers do, too often, lie. Which, right at the end of the number, in a short tailpiece, becomes a chiming  and ironically joyous mantra.

And in the Town Hall, it made for an almost theatrical coup, when the evening’s full cast, including the city’s Gay and Lesbian Singers, took it over as their own.

It was an enormous privilege and joy to have known Mahinaarangi Tocker, and to enjoy this memorable musical tribute.

Music Details

'Song title' (Composer) – Performers
Album title
(Label)

'Te Ripo' (Tocker) – Mahinaarangi Tocker
Te Ripo
(Columbia)

'Papatuanuku' (Tocker) – Moana Maniapoto
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'When I Grow Up' (Tocker) – Don McGlashan
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'The Wild Winged Messenger' (Tocker) – Anahera Higgins, Karen Hunter
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'Picture on the Wall' (Tocker) – Shona Laing
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'Cloud 29' (Tocker) – Emma Paki
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'Make Up' (Tocker) – Annie Crummer
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'I’ll breathe for you' (Tocker/ Downes) – Charlotte Yates
Love Me As I Am – live concert
(RNZ)

'Love Me As I Am' (Tocker) – Mahinaarangi Tocker
Mahinarangi
(Tristar)