If you want a clear demonstration of how different cultures can exist in harmony, look no further than the musicians who will perform at this weekend's Auckland International Cultural Festival.

On an overcast Tuesday afternoon, three members of the Ethno New Zealand orchestra met Ugandan drummer Mabingo Alfdaniels, who'll perform in Dominion Road Musical - The Remix, for the first time.

It took less than a minute for Shahab Ramhormozian, originally from Iran, Hanna Wiskari, a Swedish saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist Oliver Bramah, a Kiwi Englishman, and Mabingo to strike up a tune. As they played, Columbian dancer Diana Prieto tapped along in time.

Prieto says every region of her South American country has different dances and rhythms; her group performs dance that captures the rhythm of those from the Atlantic coast of Colombia.


"The dance portrays the happiness and hard-working nature of Colombian people," she says.

Mabingo says creating and performing together sends a message about diversity and the good things that come from it. He is part of a nine-piece band for Dominion Rd The Musical – The Remix which is led by taonga pūoro artist Jerome Kavanagh and also includes sitar players and Chinese erhu/violinists.

Meanwhile, founded in 1990 in Sweden, the Ethno world music programme aims to "revive, invigorate and disseminate" global music by connecting musicians from different cultures and countries so they can teach each other their musical traditions and heritage.

In New Zealand, it operates like a summer camp with up to 35 people aged between 18 – 30 spending 10 days at a marae learning about Māori culture as well as sharing their own music and dance traditions.

The 2019 camp, in January, saw Ramhormozian, who plays a stringed instrument called a kamancheh, jamming alongside Bramach, a guitarist and percussionist who also plays a tin-whistle, and Wiskari, who says being in a city as multicultural as Auckland creates many new opportunities to make music.

At Sunday's Auckland International Cultural Festival, they'll be joined by six other Ethno NZ musicians including Chilean vocalist and guitar play Valentina Barrios, Will Tekatoha, a singer and guitarist from the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand rapper Yung Shui.

The entertainment is part of an all-day programme that sees representatives from 56 countries taking part. Hunger Ball, a form of football with multiple goals, will also be played. Refugees as Survivors, a group who helped establish the first Auckland International Cultural Festival in 1999, will demonstrate it.

While several major events around New Zealand have been cancelled or scaled down since the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attacks, the Auckland International Cultural Festival will go ahead this weekend.


Auckland Council manager for events, David Burt, says the cultural festival, which turns 20 this year, is an important way to recognise and acknowledge cultural differences and come together as one.

* The Auckland International Cultural Festival is on Sunday 10am – 5pm at Mt Roskill War Memorial Park.