Bringing Maori culture to Dubai

By Yvonne Tahana

Hiwirori Maynard, centre, performs with Te Mana and a couple of visitors at the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai. Photo / Supplied
Hiwirori Maynard, centre, performs with Te Mana and a couple of visitors at the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai. Photo / Supplied

Hiwirori Maynard reckons taking Maori culture to Dubai is a modern day take on what world touring Maori showbands did in the 1960s - and it's also one of the best jobs he's ever had.

Mr Maynard, 31, arrived back in New Zealand yesterday after four years of performing at the luxury JW Marriott Hotel in a four-person cultural band known as Te Mana. In that time more than 40 Maori have entertained in it as membership has changed, but for all it's been a privilege to share a little of what it means to be Maori through performance, he said.

"It was about taking our culture to the world. We knew we were there representing our country ... we thought it was basically just like what the Maori Volcanics or the Hi-Marks used to do back in the day. We were living the life. It was a dream job if you're a musician."

Mr Maynard, of Rongowhakaata descent, said many Dubai tourists didn't know where New Zealand was, let alone who Maori were. After the show they'd approach and ask questions about the poi, or why the Maori women in the band had to look so ugly when they did the pukana [grimace] in their act.

"The most common one I was always asked was 'do your thighs hurt?' because I used to slap them so hard. You know they'll ask 'isn't it painful?' When you're in that mode to do the haka you want to do it properly, I tell them 'no I don't feel the pain'."

Jamus Webster, who has represented champion haka teams such as Te Matarae i Orehu and Te Waka Huia, scouts for talented singers for the band.

All candidates must be over 21, and have kapa haka experience. If performers are hired they will get great weather, accommodation, food and airfares.

Working 18 hours a week will earn band members the average wage for 40 hours, Mr Webster says.

It is an opportunity that not only delivers a lifestyle but gives an opportunity for performers to grow, he said.

"It's special. If you're in haka competitions here it doesn't mean you're a good entertainer. In Dubai it's the entertainment side of it that matters. You also learn professionalism - you have to know how to conduct yourself.

"Everyone's got talent but it's an attitude. If you're not willing to grow within your performance you're wasting your time. You might as well stay home.

"We're providing a service to a five star hotel and we need to make sure we're providing a five star performance."

New Zealand troops in the Middle East were often surprised by the sounds of home when they came across the group.

"A lot of our soldiers stop in Dubai. They've come from Afghanistan or Iraq and most of them go 'what's going on here?' when they hear a haka.

"My older brother did a stint and he saw one feller and thought 'he looks like a Maori'. They started singing E Papa and this soldier started to cry, he was emotional - missing home."

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E ai ki a Hiwirori Maynard he rite te heri i to tatau Maoritanga ki Dubai ki nga mahi a nga pene puoro Maori i huri haere i te ao i nga tau o te 1960 - otira o ana mahi katoa koinei tetahi o ana mahi tino whakapaipai rawa.

I hoki mai a Maynard, 31 ona tau, ki Aotearoa inanahi whai muri i te wha tau e waiata ana i te hotera tino haneanea o JW Marriot i roto i te pene tokowha ahurea e mohiotia ana ko Te Mana. I roto i te wa neke atu i te 40 nga Maori kua tu i roto i tenei pene, a, hei tana he honore nui tenei mo ratau katoa ki te whakaatu i to ratau taha Maori i roto i a ratau mahi.

"Ko te kaupapa ake he heri i to tatau ahurea ki te ao. I te mohio matau ka tu matau hei kanohi mo te motu... ki o matau whakaaro ano he rite tonu tenei ki nga mahi a te Maori Volcanics, nga Hi-Marks ranei i nga ra o mua. Kaore he mahi i tua atu i tenei. Koinei te taumata o nga mahi mahi mena he kaipuoro koe."

Hei ta Maynard o Rongowhakaata, he maha nga turuhi o Dubai kaore i te mohio kei hea a Aotearoa, otira he aha te Maori. I muri i nga whakangahau ka haramai ratau ki te tuku patai mo te poi, he aha i whakaanuanu ranei nga wahine Maori i o ratau ahua ina pukana ratau.

"Ko te tino patai i pataihia ko tenei, "Ka mamae o papa?" na te kaha hoki o te papaki. Mohio tonu koe ka pataihia e ratau taua patai 'he mamae ano?' Heoi ka uru koe ki tena ahua o te haka me mahi kia tika, ka ki atu atu 'kao, kaore au e rongo i te mamae'."

Ka rapu a Jamus Webster, kaihaka tawhito o nga kapa toa o Te Matarae i Orehu me Te Waka Huia, i nga kaiwaiata roreka mo te pene.

Me 21 katoa nga tau o nga kaihaka, me te matatau ki nga mahi haka. Mena ka waimarie nga kaihaka ka whai wahi ratau ki tera ao whai rangi ataahua, wahi noho pai, nga kai, a, ka utua te haere ki reira me te hoki mai ma runga waka rererangi.

He 18 nga haora mahi i te wiki, a, he rite nga utu ki nga utu o te 40 haora, te ki a Webster.

Hei tana ehara tenei whai wahitanga mo te ahua noho noa iho engari he whai wahitanga ano hei whakapakari ai nga kaiwhakaatu.

"He ahuatanga hirahira. Mena kei roto koe i nga whakataetae haka i konei ehara i te mea he kaiwhakangahau pai koe. I Dubai ko te whakangahau te mea nui. Ka ako ano koe i te ngaiotanga - me mohio hoki koe ki te kawe i a koe.

"He pukenga to nga tangata katoa engari ko te waiaro te mea nui. Mena kaore koe i te hiahia whakapakari i a koe i roto i o mahi whakatuwaewae he moumou taima noa iho. He pai ke ake to noho i te kainga."

"He tuku ratonga ta matau mahi ki tetahi hotera whakapaipai rawa atu, no reira me matua whakarite matau kei te whakarato whakaaturanga whakapaipai rawa atu."

Ka miharo hoki nga hoia o te kainga i Arepa ki te Rawhiti ina rongo ratau i nga whakatangitangi o te wa kainga i te kitenga i te ropu.

"Ko te nuinga o a tatau hoia ka tu ki Dubai. Ka whakawhiti mai ratau i Awhekenetana, i Iraki ranei, me te ki ano 'he aha ra tenei?' ina rongo ratau i te haka.

"I reira ano taku tuakana e mahi whakangahau ana, a, ka kite ia i tetahi tangata me tana whakaaro ano 'he rite ki te Maori tona ahua'. Ka waiata ratau i a E Papa, katahi ka tangi te hoia nei, i te mokemoke ia mo te wa kainga."

- NZ Herald

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