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11 May 2017, Hastings City Art GallerY

We were treated to a musical performance by traditional taonga pūoro (Māori instrument) maker, player and teacher, Matiu Bartlett, accompanied by fellow taonga pūoro player Layton Robertson.

Together they created a soundscape using traditional Māori instruments, ranging from the eerie sounds of the koauau (blown flute), the striking of stones, through to the clean and clear percussion of the tumutumu made from the jaw of a upokohue (pilot whale). Even the innocent giggles and sighs of delight that bubbled up from the children in the audience seemed to complement the overall effect.

The soundscape was enhanced by Matiu’s clever use of a loop machine, which he used to record the sound of one instrument before overlaying it with sounds of others. While Matiu developed this interplay of contrasting sounds Layton added to the audible feast by playing a variety of traditional wind instruments including the putorino and the putatara.

It was like watching two jazz musicians in a jam session, taking inspiration from each other to dictate what instrument they would play next and how.

The combination of these instruments, the use of the loop machine and amplification held the appreciative audience spell-bound, taking them on an audio journey to a long forgotten time before the introduction of western instruments and melodies.

This audio journey evoked images of misty valleys and running water not too far removed from the Ruakituri Valley just north of Wairoa where Matiu lives and works. This valley is steeped in history and is one of the traditional walking entrances into the Uruwera.

In the Ruakituri, Matiu creates, plays and experiments with different taonga pūoro, trying to recreate how his tupuna would have made and played each instrument. And while experimenting, finds new ways to create sound for a variety of contemporary audiences.

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