Mon 8 Nov 2010
Interview on traditional Maori instruments in Dunedin
DMC: In terms of Maori instruments and culturally traditional music, do they change between regions of the country?
Rob: Well yeah they used to. Instruments were defined by the resources of the region and also probably the traditions, songs, legends and their ancestors.
DMC: So how are the Otago areaâ€™s traditional Maori instruments unique?
Rob: I can tell you that travelling through Museums from up there to down here, that this place has an amazing collection of its own instruments because they were found here. â€˜Found hereâ€™ in the place of showing is actually quite unique. In Te Papa, a lot of the instruments that are there were made for the collection, they were requested by anthropologists, but here the core collection were found in the caves around this area and are amazing instruments, what I would call some of New Zealandâ€™s best. They look beautiful and I would imagine that they play fantastic.
DMC: After your performance you spoke about Museums miscategorising instruments, is that a common occurrence?
Rob: Well itâ€™s about this idea of what an instrument is defined as. Itâ€™s an argument that has always been raging but has settled down recently. Itâ€™s that idea that if you donâ€™t make music with it, then itâ€™s not an instrument but a noisemaker. For example a â€˜bird callâ€™, some die-hard and now old ethnomusicologists class that as just a noisemaker, and I can understand that there is a validity to that argument. I would say that a lot of the instrument miscategorising that come about due to personal opinions of the collectors themselves and the emergence or new understanding of ethnic data.
DMC: Do you play as a popular rock musician? .
Rob: Ah yeah I do, I wouldnâ€™t say popular, Iâ€™d say alternative.
DMC: Ok, what do you enjoy performing more, your live alternative music or these traditional performances?
Rob: Well I really enjoy the heart in this music, and itâ€™s easy to lose that in rock, but as a performer there is always heart in you. I think, to me, there is a healing aspect to this (museum performance) where rock is more cathartic, not to say that canthariasis is not healing. One of the feedbacks about this is â€œoh I would listen to this while I meditate or do yogaâ€ and that is tied in with the Maori idea of music as a healing power. The thing about healing is, science says when it works it must be something to do with the sonic spectrum, but I do healing, Iâ€™m involved with healing, and I can tell you that there is a certain point where no science can explain why it works. Itâ€™s obvious that our modern understanding of Sonics and sound have a very definite place in healing, like ultrasound for example, but there is also a chi involved. Itâ€™s a part of while I play and also before I play as I warm up, chi exercises, itâ€™s about breathing, and if we breathe right we live longer.
DMC: Were your chi exercises inspirations behind the breathing instrument motif that lay at the foundation of most of your compositions, or were they more of a practical percussion tool to keep time?
Rob: Ah, a bit of both. I have been exploring this concept of metre in Maori music, itâ€™s easy to assume that it was all just 4/4 but the Maori were great at singing 12. But the breathing is really good, if you can start with that breathing and then it gets lost under the layers but it still affects the audiences heart rates and breathing themselves, just like breathing slowly in and out your self consciously.
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