Haka and taonga pūoro will meet didgeridoo and bagpipes in a unique fusion of indigenous pride that will be showcased at Glasgow’s Festival 2014 in July, during the XX Commonwealth Games.
New Zealand performers Moana & The Tribe and taonga pūoro exponent Horomona Horo are part of the tri-nation Boomerang Project of Māori, indigenous Australian and Scottish performers who will stage four concerts during the Festival.
“There are 21 musicians, singers, haka performers and dancers onstage,” says Moana Maniapoto. “It’s the biggest band I’ve ever been in.” She describes the Boomerang Project as a cultural and musical feast. “At times it’s loud, extremely proud and feathers do fly. But there are quiet moments when it’s not just the audience that gets emotional listening to the lyrics or stories behind songs.”
The Boomerang Project began last year and is led by a producer from each of the three countries. New Zealand producer Emere Wano said the collaboration was born out a desire for the artists to explore the similarities between Gaelic, Aboriginal and Māori cultures.
Scottish band Breabach together with indigenous Australian singers Shellie Morris and Casey Donovan spent a week in January at Muriwai Beach with the New Zealand contingent during which they shared stories, songs and even wrote new music. The Boomerang Project had its debut at WOMAD New Zealand in New Plymouth in March, and has since played at the Sydney Opera House for Homeground.
“The premiere on the mainstage at WOMAD was fantastic,” Emere said. “Weaving together the music and performance of the three cultures, with Moana’s band backing the Aboriginal musicians and bagpipes melding with Horomona on taonga pūoro; it was completely spine-tingling. We’re very excited about taking this to Scotland next month.”
While it was a challenge to bring all the musicians together, Moana described the creative process as relatively painless.
“Each of us is fascinated by fusion; combining traditional with contemporary; and singing in English and in indigenous languages. For all of us, our culture informs our songwriting. When it comes to performing, we have Mickey Ututaonga smashing away on the drums, Paddy Free creating his dub grooves, Megan (Breabach) on fiddle, her bandmates on their flutes are dancing around Horomona’s koauau and songman Djakapurra (Australia) chants up a storm. All of us have learnt songs in each others’ languages. It’s a real celebration.”
Moana talks about Scotty Morrisson’s contribution to the production. “Breabach were keen to perform ‘Proud to Play a Pipe’ which was composed 300 years ago when pipes and Gaelic language were banned in Scotland. Scotty wrote a new haka to insert into the music. I tell you, when those bagpipes are blasting, the band kicks in and Kemara, Laurence and Horomona are flying into the haka, it feels like a call to arms!”
Horomona Horo said the Boomerang Project was inspiring and highlighted the similarities of the three cultures.
“It challenged us to think about how we, as indigenous peoples, can hold strong to our culture in an ever-changing society.”
Horomona said playing taonga pūoro in Glasgow will be a special experience. “These are instruments and music that not a lot of people know about. People may have heard the purerehua or the conch played at rugby games, but not many people have heard the many more melodic instruments. Interweaving these with the instruments, songs and performances by Breabach and the Aboriginal performers is just magical.”
The Boomerang Project will perform for the first time in Scotland on Thursday 17 July at the Hebridean Celtic Festival on the Isle of Lewis, followed by a performance as part of the Queens Baton Relay in Glasgow on Tuesday 22 July, a VIP performance at Scotland House as part of the entertainment on the day of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, and finally on Thursday 24 July at an open air concert at Glasgow Green.
The Boomerang Project is supported by Glasgow Life, Creative Scotland, Creative New Zealand, and the Australia Council.