3 Apr 2021

INTERVIEW: Tuteri Dal Rangihaeata on Poi E's IMNZ Classic Record award

From Music 101, 5:40 pm on 3 April 2021

Patea Māori Club's iconic 1983 single 'Poi E' is being acknowledged as an important part of our rich musical history as the recipient of the 2021 IMNZ Classic Record.

Recorded and released in late 1983, the single spent 22 weeks on the charts and four weeks at No 1, which was unprecedented for a song in te reo Māori. 'Poi E' was written by te reo advocate, linguist and composer Ngoi Pewhairangi and musician, entertainer and entrepreneur Dalvanius Prime.

The song was a way to encourage young Māori to be proud of being Māori. Dalvanius' nephew Tuteri Dal Rangihaeata talked with Music 101's Charlotte Ryan about the impact of the single, and shared some previously unknown details about Dalvanius.

Tuteri said his grandmother, who is now 83, was a member of the Patea Māori Club and her husband, Sam aka Haami Prime, was Dalvanius' oldest brother.

Sam was the original funder of the song although other Patea businesses also contributed $100 donations - at Dalvanius' behest.

"When it came to recording time he went all through Patea community and he just went into the shops and he didn't ask for it - he pretty much demanded it..."

Dalvanius may have drawn on other sources too as he had a wide circle of relationships including prime ministers, gang members, iwi members and whānau.

"He just had his own world going on..."

Dalvanius in his Sydney prime

Dalvanius Prime Photo: poiemovie.co.nz

Tuteri said Dalvanius was passionate about his music and mortgaged his house so that he and the club could perform for the Queen at the Edinburgh Festival in 1984 after she invited him to the UK.

He had an enormous drive to fight for the use of te reo Māori, and realised the need for Māori radio stations.

'Poi E' is a "beautiful taonga that is timeless", Tuteri said.

"I'm sure everyone would agree it's a New Zealand song now, it's not a Patea Māori Club song ....you can be anywhere in the world, and everyone relates to it.

"...The key goal was to distribute the language and that's what they achieved."

The contributions of new Māori artists such as Maisey Rika and Moana and bands like Six60 "smashing te reo" in their albums was "next level", he said.

"We're always thankful for the people who supported 'Poi E' and Uncle Dal to push a dream."

If Dalvanius Prime was still alive, he would be fighting for more to be done to advance Māori music around the world and within this country, Tuteri said.

"He wouldn't wait for five years for another award to come around, he'd be like: 'right, what's next?'

"That's just the way he was and we need more Dals in today's society and we just need to support them to continue growing our language and distributing it to the world because it's a beautiful language."

Tuteri was about 7 years old and living in Dannevirke at the time the video clip for the song was filmed. Many members of the Patea Māori Club were like his family and had left the town to find work after the freezing works shut down, he said.

The club still has premises in the town, however, and they have been restored recently. There will always be "some random local" on hand to discuss its history and how much the song has meant to the area, he said.  

Dalvanius Prime died in 2002 at the age of 54.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer singing with the Pātea Māori Club.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer singing with the Pātea Māori Club. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui