Words speak louder than actions

Matiu Dickson has done it all in kapa haka - spectator, participant, tutor, composer and now judge.

Mr Dickson, a senior lecturer at Te Piringa - Faculty of Law at the University of Waikato, has been involved with kapa haka for more than 35 years.

He is of Ngaiterangi and Ngati Ranginui descent with affiliations to Te Whakathea, Ngati Awa and Ngati Whakaue.

But those loyalties will be put aside later this month when he joins the judging panel at Te Matatini, the biennial national kapa haka competition in Rotorua from February 20-24.

Mr Dickson will be judging the competition's waiata - ringa (action song) section and says there will be certain things he will be looking for in assessing each performance.

"The important part is the words and what message is being put across. I tend to favour a simple message put across forcefully," he says.

"The actual words chosen are also important. A catchy tune helps; and then the actions should follow what the words say. Then I look at the quality of the singing."

The past 10 years have seen a massive improvement in singing quality in kapa haka groups, he says.

"A lot of groups have different styles of singing, with duets or small groups singing more like choral singers than harmonising."

He also wants to see the performers enjoying singing and showing empathy for the message of the song. "That's quite important, particularly for songs that are written as poroporoaki (songs for the dead)."

Audience appreciation comes into it too, and that means more than just clapping.

"Maori appreciation can be quite different. There can be silence but just because people aren't clapping doesn't mean they haven't enjoyed it," Mr Dickson says.

Aside from singing quality, he says the standard of choreography has also improved vastly over the years.

"Performances used to follow the traditional pattern of entering a marae but now it's more entertainment than traditional. Some traditionalists don't like that but some young people won't take part unless it's entertaining."

He says after 35 years, he still enjoys kapa haka as much as he ever did.

- Hamilton News

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