The internationally-travelled Modern Maori Quartet -- aka the Maori Ratpack -- playing Masterton on Saturday night, started out as drama school classmates singing together at parties, says quartet member James Tito.

Tito said himself and fellow quartet members Matariki Whatarau, Maaka Pohatu and Francis Kora first "gravitated round a guitar" together after graduating from Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School in Wellington four years ago.

"There wasn't a lot of work coming out of drama school and the idea started out of that, you know, for in between acting jobs. We were already singing at parties and jamming with each other at gatherings. We just didn't have a name," Tito said.

"I always thought it was special what we were doing as well. No-one else was doing it and no-one else was creating the same vibe as us. I just knew, with the right people involved, we could allow other people to see what we do and to get it."


The hunch paid dividends. The quartet soon started making a living from the show and have since toured their "waiata, wit and home warmth" throughout New Zealand.

Last year the quartet toured internationally for the first time -- to seven countries including Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hawaii and Rarotonga.

The show is touted as "a fresh take on classic Maori showbands" and boasts a repertoire runs from Engelbert Humperdinck covers to a cover of Lorde's Royals in te reo Maori.

"We're received really well overseas too, just by being different I think. As soon as you poke your tongue out for anything other than licking ice cream, they laugh. And wearing suits as well, we call ourselves the Maori ratpack, that catches people by surprise too.

"We found that humans are quite simple when you boil it down. We all love the same things. We love our families, we all love food and we all love to have a good time."

The Wairarapa ki Uta Wairarapa ki Tai kapa haka group, comprising students from Kuranui College, St. Matthews Collegiate School, Te Wharekura o Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa, Makoura College, Chanel College and Wairarapa College, will help host the show as a fundraiser.

The Wairarapa Times-Age has two double passes to give away to the Modern Maori Quartet show in Masterton on Saturday. What is the other name for the foursome? Email answers to

Tickets cost $39 for adults and $15 for children and are available online at