Everything hot about kapa haka fest - except result

By Review by tommy 'Kapai' Wilson

Everything about the Matatini Kapahaka Festival in Rotorua over the last four days was hot.

At least, right up until the end.

The weather was hotter than a hangi stone, the venue was first-class, the kai was wicked and the performances were as hot as any live show I have seen on New York's Broadway, London's Westend or Sydney's Opera House.

Forty-one groups, including our very own Ngati Ranginui who did Tauranga Moana proud, battled it out in front of 50,000 keen as kapahaka devotees, and yesterday it came down to a final nine groups to see who would be crowned the 2013 Te Matatini Kapahaka champions.

For the record, Te Matatini is the equivalent of the NPC Grand Final, and there are 200,000 haka performers up and down Aotearoa and Ngati Skippyland who strive to be on the stage at that time.

For me, the standout performer was Geoff Ruha, the kaia (leader) of Te Whanau a Apanui, who danced and pranced around the stage with the agility of an equestrian horse and at times with the full force of an All Blacks haka.

And then, for me, came the only cold moment of the whole four days - and that was the result.

Now I am no seasoned performer, far from it. I only attempted kapahaka once, and after 24 weeks of practicing I took the stage with a performance my mates described as a seal with gumboots on.

However, I do know outstanding live theatre and the art of performing live in front of huge appreciative crowds, and when the result went in favour of Te Waka Huia from Auckland, I, like many, were left as stunned as mullets in an out-going tide.

How the judges can award winning aggregate scores to two Tainui groups, Te Pou O Mangataawhiri and Te Iti Kahurangi, as well as my standout group of the festival, Te Whanau a Apanui, and then award the title to a group many say only just made it into the top tier is beyond me.

The judges need to seriously scrutinise their systems if they are to enjoy the fruits of being known as the best in the art of kapahaka.

Te Matatini 2013 was hot in many ways on and off the stage, and the 2015 event in the South Island could grow to new heights of heat, but it will need to be judged on the skills of the performers on the day and not the decisions of some judges who may need to watch a few reruns, just as rugby referees have to when their decisions are called into question by fans.

See Rotorua Daily Post's photo galleries here.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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