Unlocking Maori performances just requires a master Kiwi

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Unlocking Maori performances just requires a master Kiwi

Koreans "have never seen a fat Maori like me," Napi Waaka said, "jumping on stage and then stopping and singing in perfect harmony."

Mr. Waaka gesticulated wildly with a cane, his eyes wide open and roving the audience. He was introducing Aotearoa, a troupe from New Zealand renowned for its harmonic vocals and stirring performances.

It was a Monday gathering at the residence of the ambassador of New Zealand, David Taylor. Mr. Taylor had invited Aotearoa to stage another show after the huge success of its performances at the Jeonju Sori Festival. A standing ovation was the norm.

Mr. Waaka joked about the weather in Korea, saying, "I am frightened of losing too much weight. This is a sauna. And so, Korea, thank you for the warm welcome."

By the time Aotearoa, which is the Maori word for New Zealand, broke into song, the audience was warmed up. Voices raised in song drifted from behind the audience as the group walked in the waning sunlight to a knoll in the yard. Once the singers were positioned, Aotearoa commanded the audience with a traditional chant sung in four-part harmony.

Then they sang a fierce action song, "Waiata a ringa." The men beat their bodies and hopped on the grass. They slowed the tempo with a poi, which symbolizes the sound and movement of New Zealand native birds. The women swung little balls .

The performance ended with a haka, originally a war cry before battle. Because the audience was already standing, Aotearoa had little trouble drawing a standing ovation.

For most of its members, performing with Aotearoa is a hobby, according to one member, Martin Rakuraku, a journalist. Most of the members are theater students.

The group has been invited to return to Seoul to perform at the "Rites of Passage" festival held in Amsa-dong, Gangdong-gu on Oct. 3-6.

For more information, call 02-526-2741.

by Joe Yong-hee

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