5 Questions with the Modern Māori Quartet

The Modern Māori Quartet are set to release their album That's Us! Photo/Supplied
The Modern Māori Quartet are set to release their album That's Us! Photo/Supplied

The Modern Māori Quartet are headed your way with new music. We ask James Tito, Maaka Pohatu, Matariki Whatarau, Francis Kora and music dramaturg Matu Ngaropo about the new album and national tour they have lined up.

1 Which song on the new album means the most to you and why?

Maaka: Can't say that I have a most meaningful song on this album. They all hold significant meaning to me.

Matariki: Māreikura is my favourite song on the album. The subject matter is really powerful and sonically, it sounds beautiful.

Matu: Māreikura. The message is strong and I love that it's a big whānau sound.

James: The Kai Song means a lot to me because I can remember the process of coming up with that song so clearly and once it was put together - we all had a moment of cracking up and genuinely enjoying singing it and what it was about. The function of the song and kaupapa is super important. I'm writing this as I've just received amazing manaaki from the whānau for my nan's tangi. Always kai ready and tables set for the manuhiri.

Francis: Shine. Being a father I hope it connects with all parents and the love they have for their children.

2 Which town are you most looking forward to visiting on your national tour and why?

Maaka: Wellington - the "soul city". Its entire vibe; the people, the culture, the nightlife. Always feels like coming home.

Matariki: I'm excited about the whole tour and sharing the aroha all over the motu. But I like playing in towns that we haven't been to so probably Kaikohe for me.

Matu: I'm looking forward to all the smaller places around the country like Whakatāne, Otaki, Gizzy [Gisborne] and Taupō. But I'm excited about just getting on the road and sharing our waiata in most places.

James: I'm really looking forward to performing again in Taupō. It will be much different from the last two times we've been there and can't wait for my whānau there to listen to the full band and to have a choice night out listening to our debut album and what we have to say.

Francis: Whakatāne. It's my home town and the foundation of where I learnt music. It will also be the first time performing in my home town.

3 Who is a Māori musician, modern or otherwise, you look up to and why?

Maaka: The bro Troy Kingi. He's a hearty wordsmith with his lyrics and there's also not many Māori psychedelic rock/soul/blues genre artists out there that I know of so he's pretty unique in that respect. And also he's one of the breethas.

Matariki: Howard Morrison and his Quartet are definitely Māori musicians/singers who I look up to. They paved the way for us and inspire us to keep being who we are and doing what we do. Plus they were on the first TV broadcast in New Zealand. This was back in a time where Māori and things Māori weren't in mainstream media, let alone society.

Matu: Prince Tui Teka. For me he encapsulates so many wonderful and unique things about Māori entertainment. He was hori, hearty, hilarious, irreverent, unapologetic and a champion of the Māori language.

James: Sir Howard Morrison is a big inspiration to me. Someone who was fearless and a great showman that entranced people with unapologetic charm, craft and vocals. His sense of style and passion - these are qualities I aspire to have and use with our shows. My dad too - world famous in Taupō. Great quick witted speaker and has a egoless guitar strum that's fine tuned to allow people to sing along.

Francis: My brothers Stu, Brad, Laughton, Dan, Rich and the MMQ boys/family. They all never cease to inspire and grow in what ever direction they choose.

4 Who's the most talented member of the quartet and why?

Maaka: Rhetorical question, mate. That would be me of course. They don't call me the "Human Jukebox " for nothing, you know.

Matariki: We all add qualities to The Quartet that make us what we are as a band. So we're all talented in our own way and when one of us is missing, you really notice the gap that's left.

Matu: Everyone is special and incredibly talented. Some things I really love and admire about the boys are James's charm and ability to connect with audiences, Matariki's insane musical versatility, Fran's musicianship and finely tuned vocal instincts and Maaka's human juke-boxing for sure.

James: We definitely all have our own super powers that come out at different times. We're like the planeteers that need all our powers combined to call Captain Whenua who comes to bring Aroha to people all over the world through heart, straight to the puku waiata. That being said - I'm Fire, Matariki is Wind - Maaka is Water - Matu is Earth and Fran is Heart.

Francis: I don't think there is a 'most' talented. Each talent plays a vital part in the transformation of Voltron or Captain planet. Soo....Captain Quartet maybe?!

The quartet performing at the Rotorua Lakeside Concert in 2015.
The quartet performing at the Rotorua Lakeside Concert in 2015.

5 What one song would you like to cover one day but the boys won't let you?

Maaka: There's far too many great songs out there to try and limit me to just one. Come on.

Matariki: The boys are pretty open about covering whatever. Maybe a Kora song? Franny [Francis Kora] probably wouldn't want to sing 'Politician' any more than he has to.

Matu: I'm not too sure on this one, but I reckon we'd give most songs a good go and make a pretty sweet MMQ version.

James: Shania Twain - You're Still The One. Céline Dion - Power of Love.

Francis: We are the World! Need I say more hahaha.

Bonus question: Who's the worst member of the quartet to room with on tour and why?"

Maaka: James. Because flatulence.

Matariki: The Snorers. They know who they are. I think I'm one of them even???

Matu: Probably the party-hearty ones because I'm usually the earliest to bed haha.

James: Maaka or our manager Square due to their favourite Pokemon being Snorlax.

Francis: Probably the snorers hahaha but we're all cruisy guys so it's no biggie.

Tour dates:

PUTĀRURU - Saturday 16th September - The Plaza
HAMILTON - Sunday 17th September - Playhouse
NELSON - Wednesday 20th September - Playhouse Theatre
BLENHEIM - Thursday 21st September - ASB Theatre Marlborough
CHRISTCHURCH - Friday 22nd September - Aurora Centre
DUNEDIN - Saturday 23rd September - Mayfair Theatre
PŌRANGAHAU - Wednesday 27th September - Memorial Hall
FEATHERSTON -Thursday 28th September - Anzac Hall
ŌTAKI - Friday 29th September - Memorial Hall
NAPIER - Saturday 30th September - Municipal Theatre
WHANGANUI - Sunday 1st October - Royal Opera House
ROTORUA - Thursday 5th October - Civic Theatre
NEW PLYMOUTH - Friday 6th October -Theatre Royal
WELLLINGTON - Saturday 7th October - Wellington High School, Riley Centre
TAUPŌ - Sunday 8th October - Great Lakes Centre
KAIKOHE - Thursday 12th October - War Memorial Hall
WHANGAREI - Friday 13th October - Capitaine Bougainville Theatre, Forum North
AUCKLAND - Saturday 14th October - Crystal Palace
WHAKATĀNE - Sunday 15th October -Little Theatre

For ticket and show info see modernmaoriquartet.nz.

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