Renaissance man Rewi Spraggon is a whakairo carver, TV presenter and chef (the 2005 World Indigenous BBQ Champion, no less). But he is also an award-winning player of traditional Maori instruments - taonga puoro - and recently performed at Ancient Sounds, a Maori-European classical concert in Wynyard Quarter's Six-Pack Silos.
Spraggon wants this gig, beside the bay named after his Te Wai O Hua ancestor Huatau, to be annual. He loves the unique, potent acoustics of the 35m-high towers that beef up the sound like the instruments are on steroids. Conch shell notes can resonate for seven seconds after the trumpeter stops blowing, and nose flautists sound as if they're magicking up two notes at once with one nostril.
But Spraggon has a cheesy Dad-joke reason, too. "We're used to being in our own silos," he says, meaning the musicians from different traditions. Yet here, they can share a silo. Badoom pah!
Actually, the walls between the traditions are already reasonably porous - a number of shows over the years have mixed Maori and European musical forms. But even more hybrid creations would be welcome, particularly given the beauty of two recent examples.
The first is Ancient Sounds itself. Spraggon and his musical collaborator, Riki Bennett, gave a meditative taonga puoro demonstration before three University of Auckland music students performed solos on European orchestral instruments, each in a different tower.
Seagulls outside cawing at the sunset added to Josiah Carr's haunting, bird-mimicking piece, performed by clarinettist Alex Eichelbaum. Listeners were encouraged to wander around, feeling how the sound bounced off the hard curves differently in different places.
The piece de resistance was Mokoia, an evocative, enjoyable composition by masters student Oliver Francis Huang-Hsu, which tells the famous story of how Hinemoa heard the koauau of Tutanekai and swam across Lake Rotorua to woo him. Spraggon lent conductor John Elmsly a red-banded cloak, and Huang-Hsu laid taonga puoro lullabies and improvisation over a score for woodwind and strings.
The second recent hybrid show, Te Manu Ahi, mixed not music with music but Maori contemporary dance with Stravinsky's Firebird, played by Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Under the radar, the APO and Atamira Dance Company have been producing the Auckland Dance Project for four years now, to rapturous applause in sold-out Aotea Centre lunchtime shows designed for children.
This year, 150 performers, ranged from primary age to Unitec dance students and professionals, took part. Impressively, choreographer Moss Patterson makes the dancers' numbers and diverse sizes seem an advantage. Telling a "modern Maori fairytale", small children were lifted high, and groups swirled together to create clear structures - nests of safety and traps of danger - before dissolving in chaos as other groups surged to take their place.
It was dynamic, uplifting, unusual and effective. I've already booked for next year's edition, entitled Mangopare. And once Spraggon convinces his mate, Sir Bob Harvey of Waterfront Auckland, that the silos' sounds should be annually ancient, I'll sign up for that again, too.