Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and La Soirée
Reviewed 9 June 2018
The suave members of Modern Maori Quartet glide onto stage in matching tuxedoes and bow ties, instantly setting the mood for a luxurious cabaret performance. Their artful harmonies and winning smiles evoke classic Motown, while their stage personas are proudly Maori.
The four New Zealand artists, Maaka Pohatu, Francis Kora, Matariki Whatarau, and James Tito, introduce themselves and their tribal affiliations – songs are performed in both English and Maori. They describe each piece so the audience can understand its meaning, even when sung in a foreign language. Their repertoire is a musical journey, interweaving Maori language and vocal traditions with Motown tunes. Original songs “Māreikura” (honouring strong Maori female ancestors) and “Shine” (dedicated to Kora’s beloved daughter) are beautiful and emotional. They also cover Lorde’s “Royals” and an Elvis Presley medley to wild applause.
The Quartet’s genuinely friendly and playful natures immediately win over the audience. These self-proclaimed kings of dad jokes prove incredibly talented singers and musicians. Pohatu accompanies every song on his acoustic guitar, while the others alternate between vocals, bass, and percussion. Their wry humour can turn a song of loneliness and heartbreak into a farce, as Whatarau stealthily steals Tito’s stage beer during the chorus.
These talented men have adopted a classic musical style and made it into something unique and beautiful, by imbuing it with Maori language and music. Add their winning charisma, and to see Modern Maori Quartet is to instantly fall in love with them.
Reviewed by Nicola Woolford
Rating (out of 5): 5
Venue: Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 9th – 11th June 2018
Duration: 70 mins
Tickets: $41.90 – $51.90