Tiki Taane Mahuta

22 May 2017, Napier Municipal Theatre

Created by Taki Rua artistic director Tānemahuta Gray, the production Tiki Taane Mahuta is set to live music from iconic musicians Tiki Taane and Shapeshifter’s Sam Trevethick, and combines theatre, audiovisual projection, aerial performance, contemporary dance, kapa haka, mau rākau and hip hop. Both the narrative and sound track emerge from Tiki Taane’s albums Past, Present, Future and In the World of Light.

Tiki Taane Mahuta is a story about love, loss and redemption, depicting two generations, and explores the ancestral realm which oversees the characters’ whakapapa.

I went along with no preconceived ideas about what I would experience just the knowledge that Tiki Taane was cool and I liked his music…. I wasn’t wrong. His live musical narration was jaw-droppingly good with Sam Trevethick complementing him every step of the way.

The cast was made up of supremely talented young dancers who mesmerised us all with their fusion of contemporary and traditional dance and hip-wrenching aerial performances high above the stage. It was truly awesome to witness their incredible calibre of dance.

The performance was a bit of a slow burn to start but eventually the spectacle of dance and song won me over. A little bit West Side Story meets Once Were Warriors. I found the storyline to be a little long winded, with a tendency to over explain itself in parts with the use of projected graphics that were perhaps unnecessary. Images of the waka and tipuna rangitira – ancestral figurehead – accompanied much of the performance, underscoring for both cast and audience the importance of whakapapa in today’s world.

For the first half I didn’t have a clear view of Tiki Taane, who was positioned off stage, and I found this a little distracting. I wanted to see him singing and gesturing to the performers as the story unravelled and I felt I kept missing something. I moved seats for a better view in the second half and was much happier seeing him and the performers as a whole entity.

Tiki Taane’s musical mastery, passion, energy and talent were both captivating and inspiring. His joy and pride in the production visibly apparent in every bar of music he played. The first half ended with the ensemble dancing together in a brilliantly choreographed, utterly engrossing routine of kapa haka, mau rākau and contemporary dance. Seeing and experiencing the sight and sound of traditional Māori instruments woven into the fabric of contemporary music was magical and moving.

The idea of setting Tiki’s music as the score to this production was an outstanding idea but I am not quite sure that the producers’ intentions in telling the story were clear. I think the ending fell just short of its desired message.

However, Tiki Taane is one clever bugger! And after seeing his performance, I can’t say enough about the respect I have for this man.  The fusion of contemporary dance and traditional kapa haka was spectacular … the addition of Tiki Taane and his music made it sublime.

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