21 Jun 2018

Telling stories with Taonga pūoro

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 21 June 2018

Alistair Fraser’s love affair with playing and making ngā taonga puoro has taken up half of his life. 

Ponguru - Phil Boniface and Alistair Fraser

Ponguru - Phil Boniface and Alistair Fraser Photo: RNZ/Kirsten Johnstone

Māori actor and storyteller Rangimoana Taylor

Māori actor and storyteller Rangimoana Taylor Photo: Gail Cowan Management

As part of Matariki, Alistair with double bass player Phil Boniface and storyteller Rangimoana Taylor are giving performances of the ancient story of Tinirau and Kae, using the version Taylor leant when he was a child.

Alistair says it’s a special project.

“I actually met Rangimoana on the first gig I ever played on ngā taonga puoro and here we are 20 years later.”

He says there’s been progress understanding the instruments but it’s still a relatively unusual thing for a Pakeha musician to do.

 “We’re still struggling to get enough players. There are lots of people who’ve done workshops and made instruments but it is a difficult art form, with lots of skills involved.”

Phil Boniface says each different instrument is unique.

“No two kōauau is the same depending on who’s playing them and what they’re made from.”

The journey to understand Maori instruments began with Richard Nunns and Hirini Melbourne in the 1990’s; Fraser says although the mantle has now been passed on to people like him that group is getting older and new blood is essential.

Alistair says it’s a sad fact that there are still more instruments held in overseas collections than there are in New Zealand.

The players are taking the instruments with them on their museum tour made possible by Chamber Music New Zealand giving people a special chance to get up close and see ngā taonga puoro in action.

Te Korekore performs at 2pm on 24 June at Pataka Art Gallery and Museum in Porirua and 5.30pm on July 16 at Puke Ariki in New Plymouth.