Mana Farrell isn't afraid of the past and he doesn't think anyone else should be either.

"We sing about hard things, not to point the finger but because we believe our stories should be told," he told his audience, referring to the difficult history that we share: you, me, all of us in Aotearoa.

"I wasn't here 100 years ago. You weren't here. These things happened. It's our history."

It was clear he intended us to be united in that room, no matter what our beliefs or backgrounds. The Jam Factory warms with waiata and aroha on one of Tauranga's coldest nights.

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Farrell wants to build bridges between cultures. He explained his songs in English before singing them in Māori.

Twice during evening he pointed out that he's not just Māori but also proudly Irish. His three vocalists, Te Owai Webster, Karamaina Thompson and Stevie Reweti, told us about their varied ancestry that included British, Danish and American as well as Māori.

For me as a non-Māori, this emphasis on shared origins was like having a welcome mat laid out.

There was no judgment in the room even as the songs ventured into painful territory like the historical suppression of te reo.

The standout was Taku Whenua Taurikura, a spine-tingling song about land confiscation. It was being thumped in the heart with pure artistry and I may have uttered an expletive to express my admiration.

"That's the mothership, right there," my friend said afterwards.

Which leads me to the music itself: like birds swooping and diving on the ocean breeze, Farrell's voice soars over and under the swirling harmonies of the Maiden Warriors.

It's a dynamic interplay of vocal arrangements that weaves together stylings of classical and soul.

Add to this the generosity of Farrell's intent, the Māori worldview and the te reo lyrics, and you're in the presence of something special.


Review:
What: Mana and the Maiden Warriors
Venue: The Jam Factory, Tauranga
When: July 6, 2019