Maori pop phenomenon Poi E is sung with gusto and abiding love at the close of the Patea Maori Club night every Monday.

For 34 years now the remarkable song has resounded throughout the hall, sung by everyone from original members to energetic youngsters following in their parents' and grandparents' footsteps.

Club chairwoman Bib Ngarewa, now 76, is testimony to this close-knit club, which was first set up in 1967.

"Patea was very different in those days. It was a thriving town with a big meatworks and dozens of thriving local businesses."


Bib unashamedly talks about her immense pride in the club, the song Poi E and now the movie.

"I am so very, very proud."

Renowned Maori musician Dalvanius (Dal) Prime is Patea's golden son, she said.

"He wasn't an easy person but he was talented beyond measure. He was a superb musician, a great singer and a beautiful chef."

Bib smiles remembering Dal returning home from Australia to record Poi E with his own people.

"Even though he had been singing on tour with his band, it was a song people loved but it never had that same impact on tour."

When it was recorded in 1984, 29 local businesses donated $100 each to pay for the recording costs.

"There were so many businesses here. Hotels, shops, garages, everything. It was a very busy town in those days."

Patea Butcher Grant Hurley still says it was the best $100 he ever spent.

"And all our young ones know the story, and the song so this story will never die. Even though the town is very quiet since the closure of the works, this song and our story will live on."

When the Patea Maori Club first set up, it was part of the Methodist church.

"But it didn't take long for all denominations to join us. Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Mormon ... everyone came," Bib said.

She said club membership was as strong as ever.

Where some clubs are fighting to keep their membership up the Patea club always has new blood eager to join.

One of Bib's fondest memories is when 20 of them travelled with Dal to give a royal command performance in 1984.

Maori songs had rarely hit the charts in New Zealand but that all changed in 1984. Poi E spent four weeks at number 1 and was 22 weeks in the charts.

Bib said Dal was determined the world should know about the song and the club, so he mortgaged his house in Hawera and off they all went.

They toured the United Kingdom, playing at the London Palladium and the Edinburgh Festival and gave a royal command performance at the Albert Hall.

It was the royal performance that nearly confounded them, she said.

"Well, there was this big orchestra there to accompany us. But the thing was we used to perform to a tape. Anyway, Dal had to do something, and in one day he had written all the orchestral parts: piano, strings, brass, percussion, the lot. He really was a clever man."

And the British magazine New Musical Express named Poi E its single of the week.

The true purpose of the song was to encourage young Maori to be proud of being Maori, she said.

"And so they are. Of course, they all loved it. All the kids danced to it. In Auckland it was all that breakdancing, and those kids were incredible."

Bib says she feels it's time to step away from the helm of club chairwoman. "I have done many years on the committee, and it's time."

But before she goes, she's busy organising a special club group.

"I'm setting up the senior group for those in their 50s, 60s and older. We have enough young people so the club will always be strong."

And what a sense of pride surrounds them all now that film Poi E has been released, she said.