The Māori Sidesteps

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4 October, Spiegeltent
Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival 2017

Right from their requested introduction of “Horis with stories”, the Māori Sidesteps treated a packed Spiegeltent to an evening of wit and song.

The five-strong Sidesteps, who have a hugely successful web series, revive the Māori Show Band tradition of the Howard Morrison Quartet and Prince Tui Teka and the Volcanics, but with a spiky, contemporary edge.  Dressed in colonial garb, top-hatted and with kilts sewn from Union Jacks, the group is a naughty cousin of the urbane Modern Māori Quartet that inspired it. The Sidesteps were founded by a former member of that quartet –  actor, director, playwright and musician Jamie McCaskill. He is joined by the similarly talented Cohen Holloway (Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy), Jerome Leota (The Naked Samoans), Errol Anderson (Ghost in the Shell) and Rob Mokoraka (Shot Bro and Tama Tu).

It was like being in the middle of a guitar party, and the audience made to feel like whānau, with plenty of engaging conspiratorial banter and the music an informal mix of covers and originals.

There was old school crooning waiata, reprising the tight harmonies of the Hi-Marks and Howard Morrison. ‘One Day a Taniwha’ was a medley in the style of Guns and Roses, the Cranberries and the Backstreet Boys, and there were affectionate, if at times gently barbed looks at cultural shibboleths, such as in ‘My old man’s an All Black’ . . . “He wants me to be an All Black and have all the success but now I work on K Road  in my favourite frilly dress”.

There were sly references to Tinder dating – ‘Swipe Right’ – and a mutually deprecating poke at race relations in a song commemorating the arrival of Māori and Pakeha, as well as a mordent dig at Don Brash’s 2004 Orewa speech and the 2007 Ruatoki raids.

Immensely likeable and brimming with subversive humour and charm, the Māori Sidesteps has garnered a deserved growing following. Here’s to them keeping it real and keeping it fresh.

The Māori Sidesteps play the Spiegeltent again on Thursday 5 October, and in the Gaiety Theatre, Wairoa on Friday 6 October.

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