Words by Seth Jordan. Reviewed in the Jan/Feb 2015 (#105) edition.
Ever since the arrival of her genre-bending 90s band The Moahunters, veteran Maori songstress Moana Maniapoto has been one of New Zealand’s most visible international musical ambassadors. Her recent tri-cultural collaboration Boomerang, with both Australian Aboriginal and Scottish musicians, broke new ground. This latest album of all-original material should further expand her global audience.
The opening ‘Whole World’s Watching’ combines sociopolitical lyrics with a dub-reggae aesthetic and the song’s cheeky video is a must-see. Several tracks are in Maori language – most notably ‘Upokhue’ and ‘Ko Au’ – with Moana and her sister Trina blending their sweet harmonies with a male haka team’s mock-ferocious chants. Backed by her solid Tribe band, the key input of producer and keyboard player Paddy Free (of Pitch Black and Salmonella Dub) deserves special mention, as his creativity provides Moana with a freshened-up sound, successfully binding ancient Maori traditions and waiata (song) to 21st century technology.
The Boomerang-inspired track ‘Water People’, features traditional Aboriginal songman Djakapurra Munyarryun, along with Scottish bagpipers Calum MacCrimmon and James MacKenzie from folk group Breabach. Kiwi singer Don McGlashan (The Mutton Birds) guests on ‘House of Strife’, while the voices of blues singer Grant Haua and Maori broadcaster Scotty Morrison combine with Moana on the closing soul-drenched track ‘Not Alone’, lifting it to lofty heights. Dedicated to the environment, the international sisterhood and her late father, Moana’s Rima makes for some mighty fine Pacific listening.