Moana Maniapoto and companions

Moana Maniapoto was wearing both her entertainer and her activist hat when she and her group entertained in Whanganui on Friday night.

It was a small audience that arrived to be part of a "garage party" and revel with her in all things ocean.


She brought her sister Trina, keyboardist Paddy Free and guitarist Cadzow Cossar for the Arts on Tour event. It was an unusual mixture.

There were stories from her life, singalong songs and increasingly alarming news headlines across four decades that built toward a final appeal to the audience to stand up for social justice and the environment.

Moana and Trina are gorgeous singers. Moana especially showed her versatility as she copied the mannerisms of black gospel singers she met in the southern United States. The hyperactive Paddy Free is a wizard with keyboard and sound effects, and Cadzow Cossar gave some fine guitar solos.

The evening began with the audience singing and swaying along to "garage party" songs like Ten Guitars and You Are My Sunshine. Then it morphed into something more serious.

For the mainly older audience there was lots of nostalgia as Moana told the story of her childhood in Invercargill and Rotorua/Taupō, time at St Joseph's Māori Girls' College, studying law at Auckland University, protesting the Springbok Tour and meeting or being mentored by a whole string of famous people: Nelson Mandela, Ruia Aperahama, Tame Iti, Syd Jackson, Dalvanius Prime.

Along the way the group broke out into well-known songs - Poi E, Black Pearl and the Ngā Iwi E protest anthem. Later songs dwelt on the ocean, with one written to Māui dolphins, and another celebrating the long days at sea for people migrating to this country.

It was a long and varied evening, with some extremely beautiful music.