Performer, Composer [Tainui, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Ruanui, Tūwharetoa, Ngā Rauru, Pakakohi, Ngāi Tahu]
Globetrotting music legend Dalvanius Prime energised small-town Patea and beyond, after managing to get a song in te reo onto the radio, then right to the top of the New Zealand charts. Aside from 'Poi E', the larger than life singer turned producer presented TV's Sweet Soul Music, and composed for the screen — including 1989 documentary Carmen and his award-winning work on classic Barry Barclay film Ngati (1987). Plans to make an animated Poi E fantasy failed to take flight, before Dalvanius passed on 3 October 2002. His life and work is celebrated in two documentaries: TV's Dalvanius and Poi E - The Movie.
If I sing in English I get me award rate, if I sing in Māori it’s negotiable. That’s the fact, but that's not the Pākehā's fault. It’s ours. We’ve allowed everybody else to make money out of our language but ourselves. Dalvanius Prime in a 1987 interview with Graham Reid
Poi E: The Story of Our Song tells the story behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic pop songs. Led by Dalvanius Prime, the Patea Māori Club single was released soon after the closure of the town’s freezing works. Conquering disinterest from record labels and radio, Poi E became New Zealand's highest selling single in 1984. Written and directed by Tearepa Kahi (Mt Zion), the "warm, funny, touching" documentary (NZ Herald) features interviews with those involved, and famous fans (eg Taika Waititi). Poi E won applause after premiering at the opening of the 2016 Auckland Film Festival.
Entertainment legend Maui Dalvanius Prime rides an emotional roller coaster, as he looks back on his career in this documentary made in the final stages of his battle with lung cancer. The boy from South Taranaki who dreamed of becoming a circus ringmaster became a taonga of the Kiwi music industry, from success in Sydney with The Fascinations, to his groundbreaking kapa haka / te reo hit ‘Poi E’. He recalls his struggle to come to terms with making Māori music, and takes one last hikoi to the East Coast — where he wrote ‘Poi-E’ with the late Ngoi Pēwhairangi.
This comedy series followed the daily life of an 1800s Māori chief (Pio Terei) and his interactions with other Māori and newly-arrived Pākehā settlers. Nothing was sacred as a subject for satire, from disease to English gold lust. Created by Ray Lillis (Pio!), the series features Rachel House (Whale Rider), Jason Hoyte (Late Night Big Breakfast), William Davis (Belief) and Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows). Guests included Dalvanius and Charles Mesure. It was produced by Terei’s Pipi Productions for TVNZ over two seasons; Terei had shifted from TV3 after his series Pio! in 1999.
This turn of the century comedy series follows the daily life of fictional colonial Māori chief Te Tutu (Pio Terei). In the first episode, 'Welcome', it’s 1838 and Te Tutu meets a shipload of newly-arrived New Zealand Company settlers. Ngāti Pati elders debate whether or not to eat them. Tama (Dalvanius) wants to, but Te Tutu pushes for the vegetarian option by outlining the threat of Pākehā diseases to Māori private parts. The boys can’t decide but when Tama’s wife arrives everything is ka pai, and the kōrero turns to real estate. The script is by series creator Ray Lillis.
Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.
This full-length documentary gives warm-spirited context to the song that has been the soundtrack to countless back lawn crate parties and freezing works chains (watch the credits). It was released as the B-side of singer Engelbert Humperdinck's Please Release Me, and became an unlikely hit in Aotearoa with fans who have done the "dance, dance, dance ...": including Dalvanius (who discusses its "pop-schlock" charms), Bunny Walters, The Topp Twins, and a special group of ten guitarists. The documentary also explores why "the national anthem of Patea" is so appealing to Māori.
Occasional Heartland host Annie Whittle visits Patea in this full-length episode, and finds the town in rehearsal for the story of its own life. A decade in the making, Poi E - The Musical chronicles Patea's triumphs and tragedies, following the closure of the local freezing works in 1982. Whittle talks to Dalvanius Prime — the musician behind both the original number one song, and the Poi E musical — about the impact the closure had on the township. The programme ends with a rousing live version of 'Poi E'. Prime would pass away in October 2002.
Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a rural iwi radio station that is close to collapse. Among characters talking back in te reo and getting up to antics on this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati are a smoothtalking DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball who wants to graduate to a big station in the city (Greg Mayor, future star of Stewart Main short Twilight of the Gods); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the whole operation. Produced by TVNZ's Māori department.
Appearing on magazine show New Zealand Today in 1992, the Patea Māori Club perform their single 'Ngoi Ngoi'. The track appeared on the same album as their legendary hit 'Poi E'. The video sees the group performing on stage while maestro Dalvanius Prime sings backup, while holding his dog. Prime is strikingly dressed in purple and sporting a fairly unique pair of sunglasses. The song honours Ngoi Pēwhairangi. She was instrumental in helping Dalvanius learn about Māoritanga, and wrote lyrics for both 'Poi E' and Prince Tui Teka's earlier hit 'E Ipo'. She passed away in 1985.
Variously praised as a major step forward in indigenous cinema, attacked for overambition, and little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned follow-up to Ngati. This story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees Barclay plunging into issues of control of indigenous culture he would return to in book Mana Tuturu. Feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home. Barclay and his longtime producer John O’Shea had their own differences over Te Rua’s final cut.
This seven-part documentary series chronicled the history of modern Māori music, from the turn of the century and Rotorua tourist concert parties, through to the showband era (Howard Morrison Quartet, Māori Volcanics, Māori Hi-Five) and reggae and hip hop. The programme ranged from ‘Ten Guitars’ to Tui Teka, from Guide Rangi doing poi to The Patea Māori Club, from opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa to Upper Hutt Posse, Ardijah, Herbs and Moana and the Moa Hunters. The acclaimed 1990 series was directed by Tainui Stephens (My Party Song, The New Zealand Wars).
In more repressed times, Carmen was one of NZ's most colourful and controversial figures. Geoff Steven's doco traces the life story of the transgender icon who was born Trevor Rupe in Taumarunui in 1936 and went on to be a dancer, sex worker, madam, cafe owner — and one of the few non-MPs to appear before the Privileges Committee. Steven shines a light on a bygone era of gay culture but avoids the temptation to focus on the seedy — opting, instead, for extended fantasy sequences (featuring Neil Gudsell aka Mika) to illustrate key moments in Carmen's life.
The night before his granddaughter's birthday, a man who likes having a flutter on the horses (Utu star Anzac Wallace) has a "dream". But which horse is he meant to bet on this time? Raniera gets help from his wife (Erihapeti Ngata) and the local community, to understand what the dream might mean. This edition of the pioneering Māori drama series marked Rawiri Paratene's debut as director. Patricia Grace based the screenplay on her story 'The Dream'; Temuera Morrison has a small role. Viewers can choose whether to watch the episode in Te Reo or in English.
In Haka Māori myth is re-told through a series of stirring haka performances. Men stomp, invoke, and do pūkana (tongue out, eyes wide) amidst spitting mud and fire and ... in Paremoremo Prison and under a motorway. These scenes are intercut with archive imagery of post-pākehā Māori life, from first contact to Maori Battalion, urban drift and protest. The film is a tribute to the raw power, and art, of haka. Ultimately the Once Were Warriors-like message "is positive because of the fierce, irresistible pride of the performances." Peter Calder, (NZ Herald, 1989).
This episode of TVNZ’s Avalon studio-filmed "mainly country" music show opens with The Toner Sisters, ‘Rockin' with the Rhythm of the Rain’. Introduced by host Andy Anderson as “the big D on the big P, with the big ballad”, Dalvanius bangs out ‘Just Out of Reach’ on the piano. Sharon de Bont covers ‘When Will I Be Loved’. Anderson kids around with Rob Winch and John Grenell, before Grenell gets wistful on ‘Past Like a Mask’. The Ranchsliders get things moving with Paul Simon's ‘Gone at Last’. Then Anderson leads the team for Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Sweet And Shiny Eyes’.
Set in and around the fictional town of Kapua in 1948, Ngāti is the story of a Māori community. The film comprises three narrative threads: a boy, Ropata, is dying of leukaemia; the return of a young Australian doctor, Greg, and his discovery that he has Māori heritage; and the fight to keep the local freezing works open. Unique in tone and quietly powerful in its storytelling, Ngāti was Barry Barclay's first dramatic feature, and the first feature to be written and directed by Māori. Ngati screened in Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival
This four-part 1986 series offered a lively musical survey of the history of soul. Each episode focussed on a United States city, and its influence on the evolution of the genre. Presented by Dalvanius, the show was built around performances of soul classics by Kiwi performers (Bunny Walters, Peter Morgan, The Yandall Sisters), filmed in a nightclub style setting at Auckland’s Shortland Street Studios. The series writer was Rip It Up editor and future record label owner Murray Cammick (Southside, Wildside).
This four-part TVNZ series from 1986 surveyed the history of soul music, with a roll call of talented Kiwi performers belting out the genre's classics. In this first episode — presented by Dalvanius with Stevie Wonder braids — the focus is on the influential 60s soul music of New York label Atlantic Records. Singers include Bunny Walters, Debbie Harwood, The Yandall Sisters, Peter Morgan and more. Ardijah chime in with their contemporary soul hit ‘Your Love is Blind’. The series writer was Murray Cammick, founder of music magazine Rip It Up.
This uplifting promotional clip is as famous as the chartbusting song. Accompanied by Jo, the breakdancing guide, for a tour of Patea and surrounds, the Patea Māori Club are captured "bopping and twirling like piwakawaka": at the local marae, in Wellington's Manners Mall, and on Patea’s main street, where milk tankers and sheep trucks pass by the Aotea canoe remembrance arch. So does the impresario himself: Dalvanius does a pūkana out a car window. In 2010 'Poi E' re-entered the charts thanks to Taika Waititi hit Boy. A documentary on the song was released in 2016.
The golden age of rock is recaptured in a studio mock-up of the Wellington Rock 'n' Roll Revival Club. Hosted by Paul Holmes (under the name Wonderful Wally Watson), the show features Tom Sharplin and his band. Dalvanius Prime also puts in an appearance, delivering a wonderful version of 'The Great Pretender'. The show mixes studio and location sequences, as it delivers hits made famous by the likes of 50s legends Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Actors Marshall Napier and Brian Sergent are on hand to play a couple of bodgies, referencing the milk-bar cowboys of the era.
Regular Māori programmes started on Television New Zealand in 1980 with Koha, a weekly, 30 minute programme broadcast in English. It explored everything from social problems, tribal history, natural history, about weaponry, to the preparation of food, canoe history, carvings and their meanings, language and how it changed through time. It was a window into te ao Māori for Pākekā, and provided a link to urban Māori estranged from their culture. It was the first regular Māori programme to be shown in prime time.
For a generation of music fans before the internet, show Radio with Pictures was a vital link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Karyn Hay, Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Dick Driver Phil O'Brien. RWP's extended run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 1980s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple, but artist interviews also featured. The show also staged a number of Mainstreet concerts featuring leading local artists.