The ‘boom-chucka-boom-chucka’ “Māori strum” turned a British song – Ten Guitars – into an unofficial Kiwi national anthem. It’s the backbone of kapa haka performances, and has even been the subject of academic study. Here’s a selection of New Zealand songs that all incorporate a Māori strum. And we can’t overlook Ten Guitars: the full-length documentary is a fascinating insight into the song and its influence on our culture. Ka pai!
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.
After a first video was rejected, this version directed by Lee Baker was finished just as ‘How Bizarre’ went to number one in NZ. However, it did play its part internationally as the song became a huge worldwide hit. Shot on a soundstage in Ponsonby and at Ellerslie Racecourse for a budget of $7,000, it was shown on US networks 14,986 times in 1997 and 1998. Pauly Fuemana shares the limelight with Sina Siapia, and a Filipino named Hill, who was enlisted after turning up to help out with the shoot – and became something of a celebrity in his homeland as a result.
Neil Finn has described the lyric to this song as "on the one hand, feeling kind of lost and, on the other hand, sort of urging myself on". The wistful single was Crowded House's breakthrough, hitting number two in the US (and the top spot in New Zealand, after local radio had earlier shown little interest). Australian director Alex Proyas (The Crow) based his evocative video on locations from the band members' childhoods. As Finn walks from set to set, the succession of rooms also neatly reinforces the band's name. 'Don't Dream It’s Over' remains one of the biggest international hits by a NZ artist.
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.
The fourth single from Tiki Taane’s first solo album, ‘Always on My Mind’ is an unadorned, heartfelt love song featuring Tiki accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. It became his breakthrough hit, a chart topper and the first Kiwi digital single to achieve platinum sales. The video is one continuous shot set in an imagined “Heathcote Valley Hall” (a nod to the Christchurch suburb where Tiki grew up) with Tiki unplugged, a shimmering floor and a backdrop inspired by Elvis Presley’s legendary 1968 Comeback Special. It won Best Solo Video at the 2008 Juice TV Awards.
Australian music video maestro Richard Lowenstein (INXS, U2, cult film Dogs in Space) directed this bouncy city-life clip for the song when Tim Finn first flew solo from Split Enz. Bright colours, video scratching, an animated sausage dog — what more could you want? Finn walks along carrying a ghettoblaster in Wayfarer sunglasses; it must be the 80s. 'Fraction too Much Friction' got to number two on the Kiwi singles charts in 1983, and number eight in Australia. That year Finn recorded a last album with Split Enz, before leaving the band he co-founded roughly a decade before.
'Don't Forget Your Roots' was released in July 2011 as the second single from Six60's self-titled debut album. The laid back meditation on family reached number two on the singles chart. The video, directed by Robin Walters, is set around the student accommodation area of north Dunedin, where the band members met while three of them were studying at Otago University. Some of the city's most notorious flats are featured, including 660 Castle Street where three of the band members lived, and the group first rehearsed.
'Lyin' in the Sand' closed Hello Sailor's self-titled debut album in 1977, the song's languid South Seas vibe providing respite after 'Gutter Black' and various guitars. Inspired by a spontaneous South Pacific parody from vocalist Graham Brazier one night, it was written by guitarist Harry Lyon after observing how Takapuna's smart set took their beach for granted. TVNZ filmed the band playing live in a Christchurch studio in 1978, just before the band set off to try to make it in LA. Lyon sings, so Brazier is absent; drummer Ricky Ball's hula confirms that the band’s tongue was in its chic.
Music legend Prince Tui Teka performs his greatest hit ‘E Ipo’ in this excerpt from a TVNZ special recorded at Auckland’s Mandalay Ballroom. Based on a traditional Indonesian folk melody, ‘E Ipo’ was written by Teka with Ngoi (‘Poi E’) Pewhairangi, when he was courting her niece (and his future wife) Missy. The two join Tui Teka on stage (along with Pita Sharples’ Te Roopu Manutaki cultural group) for a rousing rendition performed with his trademark verve and humour. The song reached number one, following te reo-dominated chart-toppers 'The Bridge' (sung by Deane Waretini) in 1981, and Howard Morrison's 1982 version of 'How Great Thou Art'.
This 1982 novelty song was made by Dalvanius for a fee. A local take on the Stars on 45 medley single concept, the song (and video) pay tribute to the party singalongs of Dalvanius’ childhood; he told Murray Cammick in a 2001 Real Groove profile, "I was asked whether I was going to put my name on it and I said ‘f**k off'." When the song made the top five of the local charts, he "nearly dropped dead". It was a stepping stone to Dalvanius forming Maui Records – which got off to a flying start when te reo-meets-breakdancing classic ‘Poi E’ became a huge hit in 1984.