If you are not "woke" about all things te ao Māori, you will be soon.

That is the promise the founder of the Māori Sidesteps has for his audience in Rotorua this week.

Jamie McCaskill (Ngāti Tamaterā) is the founding member to The Māori Sidesteps and a strong advocate of Māori theatre and with the showband will deliver a fresh take and political spin on some old party tunes to Rotorua today and tomorrow at the Energy Events Centre.

He said people found it hard to understand who they were at a glance and even though he tried to break it down, McCaskill said to experience the show was the only way.


"I just want the message to come across we are proud of who we are and there is validity in indigenous values and tradition in society today.

"It is not like we are trying to be different or hating we just want the message to come across that we are us and that's fine."

Jamie McCaskill is the founding member to The Māori Sidesteps and a strong advocate of Māori theatre. Photo / Supplied
Jamie McCaskill is the founding member to The Māori Sidesteps and a strong advocate of Māori theatre. Photo / Supplied

There are a few elements to the Māori Sidesteps with their name ringing a bell for those who have seen their web series but their live performance is inspired by iconic Māori showbands.

"Stuff that I was inspired by as a young person and stuff my dad used to play in the garage when I was a kid," McCaskill said.

"Bringing that genre back, that evolution of a Māori showband, in a contemporary age."

McCaskill is joined on stage by Cohen Holloway from Fresh Eggs and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Regan Taylor from Mahana and Erroll Anderson from Ghost in the Shell.

Together they aim to be subversive in order to get their message across.

"We think the best way to be pro-Māori and to be quite aggressive about it is still with humour.


"By the end of the show, you will be woke about all things te ao Māori and the indigenous values we have without even realising it."

This is not the group's first time around the block having previously performed in art festivals around Aotearoa, but McCaskill says it is to a predominantly pākehā audience which came with its own challenges.

"I was quite scared because I feel like the show is a bit of an assault on our pākehā whānau which I don't intend it to be.

"But I do want to get our message across the indigenous values of te ao Māori are just as important of any values you would grow up with in te ao Pākehā."

It was an eye-opener for McCaskill when his last tour came soon after the mosque attacks in Christchurch but it was that experience that drove his passion further.

"It highlighted how ignorant the majority of New Zealand was to anyone else but the colonised version of what New Zealand is and it is very important that the rest of the country, or non-Māori in particular, value the way we are trying to live."

But on a lighter note, McCaskill cannot wait to bring his showband to the heart of the Māori showband rohe.

"A big part of Rotorua is the whakapapa of Māori showbands there and it is very important for us to mihi to that.

"We are very self-deprecating, we take the mickey out of ourselves so I'm looking forward to sharing our satire and sharing some laughs with the audience at our expense."