Over the next few weeks The Daily Post senior reporter Greg Taipari will profile the six Te Arawa groups performing at the 21st Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival. This week's profile is Manaia
When it comes to breaking new ground, Manaia are a group who are no strangers to it. When the group was first formed back in 2009 by Eraia Kiel and Tania Fraser, they were the youngest group to perform at the 2010 Te Arawa regionals. In their first attempt, they qualified for the nationals and have been a regular feature since.
Many would say, especially their supporters, they have been unlucky not to have won the title already. The group is a mixture of sweet harmonies mixed with a highly skilled and powerful performance.
Although, they are yet to claim the title, Manaia only has to look as far as Te Matarae i Orehu for inspiration when it comes to winning a national title for the first time; it took three attempts before they managed to win.
It is Manaia's third consecutive nationals and it would be fair to say the time is right for the group, who are tutored and led by Mr Kiel and his partner, Ms Fraser.
Mr Kiel said the group, who finished fourth at last year's Te Arawa regionals, had a good balance of performers this year.
"There is a good make-up, there's a few old hands in there as well, a lot of new performers. We like sharing the culture with everybody.''
Mr Kiel said a lot of other groups probably had more experienced performers but he was happy with the balance for the nationals.
"The wairua (spirituality) of our group would definitely be our strength. Without it, you can be as sharp as you want [while performing]. But unless you have a really positive wairua in the team, you don't enjoy it as much.''
The kaitaki tane (male leader) said he was excited about the festival being held in Rotorua for the first time since 1995.
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it, with it being in our home town. Last time it was here, I'd just turned 18 and we'd won it last time. I was performing with Ngati Rangiwewehi. So yeah, looking forward to coming back here to Rotorua. Everybody is starting to get into the hype of it now.''
Despite the hype, the 36-year-old said his group wasn't letting it get to them, as they counted down to the event, which runs between February 20-24 at the Rotorua International Stadium.
"We've had a relaxed campaign to be honest. It's been good, we've tried to enjoy it as much as we can. Sometimes you get carried away in the competitive arena and loose the focus of kapa haka [which is] about enjoying it.
"The group is relaxed especially on my behalf because [the competition] is being held on our land of Ngati Tuara/ Ngati Kearoa where the stadium is. But I don't think there is any pressure on the group [to perform at home]. We just want to do our best to represent Te Arawa.''
Manaia are drawn in pool two _ Te Haumi, performing on Friday, February 22, the pool features two previous title winners; Te Waka Huia who have won it four times since the competition's inception in 1972 and Whangara mai Tawhiti (2007).
However, Mr Kiel said all groups in their pool were a threat especially a group like Te Hokowhitu a Tu.
Only three teams from each pool make it through to the finals on Sunday with the champion receiving the Duncan McIntyre Trophy.
Pool two _ Te Haumi:
Muriwhenua, Te Matapihi, Te Iti Kahurangi, Ngati Ranginui, Te Tu Mataora, Manaia, Nga Uri o Tamarau, Nga Taonga Mai Tawhiti, Hokianga, Whangara Mai Tawhiti, Te Reanga Morehu o Ratana, Te Waka Huia, Tauiramaitawhiti, Te Hokowhitu a Tu.
Tutors: Eraia Kiel, Tania Fraser and Timua Brennan (vocal tutor)
Kaitataki tane: Eraia Kiel
Kaitataki wahine: Tania Fraser
Placing at Te Arawa Regionals: fourth.
Placing at previous Te Matatini festivals: finalist but are yet to win overall tittle.