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.
Appearing on magazine show New Zealand Today in 1992, the Patea Māori Club perform their single 'Ngoi Ngoi', which 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 — who 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.
Drawn together by economic hardship after the closure of the local freezing works, the Patea Māori Club earned a place in pop culture history in 1984 with the hit 'Poi E'. Led by charismatic singer/songwriter and producer, Dalvanius Prime, the Māori culture group melded poi and breakdancing and held the number one spot in the charts for four weeks. The song went on to become the year's biggest single and took the Patea Māori Club from small town Taranaki to national household name. The group went on to perform in a Poi E musical, and in 2016 were celebrated in an acclaimed big screen documentary.
This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
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.
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.
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.
In the era before 24 hour transmission, packages like these opened the day on TV1 and TV2. United by patriotic zeal, they focused on Kiwi people at work and play, and on scenery, and could have doubled as tourism promos. (The 1976 edition — second clip — borrows more than just the soundtrack from short film This is New Zealand). The party piece is the first clip: an epic tag-team version of the national anthem, sung by Annie Crummer, Peter Morgan, the Patea Māori Club and Dalvanius, backed by the NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra. It was originally recorded for Expo 88 in Brisbane.
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
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).