14 Jul 2023

Matariki a chance to 'decolonise the dancefloor' say Tāmaki Makaurau DJs

1:38 pm on 14 July 2023
Generic nightclub scene

Photo: Pim Myten for Unsplash

As the stars of Matariki rise, decolonising the dance floor is a key focus for three Tāmaki Makaurau DJs.

AJ Honeysuckle, Dylan Biscuit and NOA Records founder Rāhara Tito-Taylor are hoping to set a precedent by organising a tangata whenua-heavy lineup at E HOA MĀ in Auckland tonight.

The trio want people to realise that Māori New Year is more than just a marketing opportunity or a long weekend.

"When you take Matariki and use that to capitalise off of something, it's almost like a takahi on our mana," Honeysuckle said.

"It's upsetting that the awareness isn't there."

'Decolonising' a dance floor meant detaching Western attitudes of dance music and club culture from the space, Honeysuckle said.

Tāmaki Makaurau DJs Rahara Tito-Taylor of NOA Records, and Kanikani Collective co-founders Dylan Biscuit and AJ Honeysuckle

Tāmaki Makaurau DJs Rahara Tito-Taylor of NOA Records, and Kanikani Collective co-founders Dylan Biscuit and AJ Honeysuckle. Photo: Liam Brown

Honeysuckle (Ngāti Makirangi/Samoa) and Biscuit (Ngā Puhi), co-founders of DJ collective Kanikani Company, along with their co-collaborator Tito-Taylor (Ngā Puhi/Ngāti Whātua/Tainui), prefer the term 're-moanafication' used by multi-disciplinary artist James Waititi.

Honeysuckle said E HOA MĀ was one of a few events occurring within Tāmaki Makaurau that were placing an emphasis on celebrating Māori artists.

There was a dire lack of diversity and inclusion on line-ups across the city, with promoters using the public holiday as a marketing tool, she said.

"It's sad that people aren't aware of how that can affect Māori who are trying to reclaim a lot of what has been lost," she said.

While acknowledging that she could not speak on behalf of all Māori DJ's, Honeysuckle said the issue was complex.

A line-up fix was not a total cure for a long-term problem, but it was a start, she said.

"We're tangata whenua - we're of this whenua.

"It's about decolonising time, essentially, which is so big to try and understand. To me, that's what Matariki is doing - reclaiming our time; the way in which we move about life."

The night was split between two rooms, with intentionally strong collaboration between all players despite musical and stylistic differences.

"We're like pou supporting each other - navigating what Matariki means together is important for me," Honeysuckle said.

"Within that sense of collaboration brings in wānanga; when you've got another group that brings another approach, you can explore things in a way that you might not have on your own," Tito-Taylor said.

"It's not just like these two groups that are doing a DJ thing in each room; when you've got two quite different performance modes, you open your mind up a bit to other ideas that might flow in."

*Liam Brown is also a DJ and will be performing at E HOA MĀ

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