Maori entertainers were the toast of the world. They're back, hears Anastasia Prikhodko
Waiata is a Maori word reflecting different meanings surrounding music and songs. Many of those flavours are captured on a new two-disc album, Waiata, showcasing the contribution to music by Maori showbands, balladeers and pop stars from the 1950s to the early 80s.
The album collects many songs which have never been properly acknowledged or recognised. Music archivist Grant Gillanders compiled the tracks as a way of "giving back" to the music and musicians who inspired him.
"The CD is a way of giving back to the musicians and people, because the songs were a big part of my childhood," he says.
The project has been his main focus for the past five years and he admits it was difficult to find people with the same perceptions and passion as him.
Waiata crosses various genres. The first disc contains mainly rock 'n' roll and vocal harmonies from the 50s and 60s - artists like Johnny Cooper, who performs with Ken Avery & His Rockin' Rhythm Group in Rock Around the Clock, or Eddie Howell and the Bob Paris Combo performing Kansas City.
The second disc reflects the 70s, the era of disco, dance rhythm and Maori ballads, with Billy TK and Powerhouse singing Move On Up and Mark Williams' Sweet Wine. Also included are John Rowles (Tania) and Frankie Stevens (My Elusive Dream).
One of the artists delighted to see the music back on shelves is Rufus Rehu, who began his career with the Quin Tikis. The showband performed songs such as She's The Girl and What Now My Love.
Rehu, still performing around Auckland, began learning the piano at 8 and joined the Quin Tikis in 1960. In 1961 the band toured nationwide with the Miss New Zealand Pageant. Rufus impressed Des Cussins, who was looking for musicians to take to Sydney with the Maori Premiers. Rehu recalls one highlight as "performing in one of the top venues in Kings Cross, called Chequers Night Club".
In 1964, he left the Maori Premiers to rejoin the Quin Tikis in Australia.
Until 1967, the band released records in New Zealand and Australia, including Enchanted Sea, Get Me to the Church and Honky Tonk.
The band has a strong presence on Waiata, pictured on the cover and in five tracks, performing with artists such as Lisa Nuku, Rim D Paul and Keri Summers. Rehu, also remembered for his time with Quincy Conserve, earns Summers' accolade as the backbone of the Quin Tikis, and a truly great musician still sharing his passion for music with his audiences.
Waiata is released this week through EMI Music.