|Single by Patea Māori Club|
|from the album Poi E|
|Genre||Māori music / hip hop|
|Writer(s)||Ngoi Pēwhairangi, Dalvanius Prime|
|Patea Māori Club singles chronology|
"Poi E" is a New Zealand 1984 number-one hit song by the group Patea Māori Club off the album of the same name. Its popularity is unique in New Zealand as Māori music rarely reaches popular status. Released in 1984, the song was sung entirely in the Māori language and featured a blend of Māori cultural practices in the song and accompanying music video, including Māori chanting, poi dancing, and the wearing of traditional Māori garments.
Not only did the song top the New Zealand pop charts for four weeks, but the single also became the biggest seller in New Zealand for 1984, "outselling all international recording artists." Today the song maintains its status as a cult classic in non Māori New Zealand, as the group behind it, Patea Māori Club, was a one-hit wonder. However, for Māori, the song is much more important, as it became "the anthem of a new generation", the generation known as the "hip-hop generation".
The song was written by Māori linguist Ngoi Pēwhairangi; the music was scored by Dalvanius Prime. Pewhairangi's intent in writing the song in such a way was to promote Māori ethnic pride among young Māori people in a popular format. The two faced indifference from record labels, so Prime produced the song and album under his self-made label, Maui Records.
Without radio play and barely any commercial TV airing, a TV news story is credited with shooting the song up to #1 on New Zealand charts in March 1984. Its popularity that same year grew further when it was well received by British listeners as the Patea Māori Club toured the United Kingdom, playing at the London Palladium and the Edinburgh Festival, as well as giving a Royal Command Performance.
It briefly re-entered the New Zealand charts in 2009 following its use in a Vodafone promotion. It also made a comeback in 2010 by reaching the New Zealand Top 20 after being featured in the successful New Zealand comedy film Boy. On May 24 that year it reached No.3. "Poi E" is the only New Zealand song to chart over three decades.
"Poi E" and hip-hop
In addition to the Māori cultural influences in the music video for the song, there are interesting influences from hip-hop culture present in the video. Among the most obvious are rapping and breakdancing, and the song itself "combined traditional Māori vocals and show-band and concert-party idioms with gospel and funk", two of hip-hop's own influences as major African-American musical genres. Hip-hop was mixed with the traditional Māori chanting and cultural music because the Patea Māori Club wanted to give the younger hip-hop generation "their language and culture through the medium they were comfortable with", that medium being hip-hop. At the same time as it was helping to teach the children about Māori culture, hip-hop also "provided Māori youth in particular with a viable substitute for their own culture."
Hip hop already had a hold on the people of New Zealand and the Māori in particular, and Poi-E reinforced it and Māori hip-hop crews continued springing up throughout New Zealand.
The original version of the song without hip hop elements added was judged first equal in the poi song category at the 1983 Polynesian festival in Auckland.
In popular culture
- Mitchell, Tony. "Kia Kaha! (Be Strong!): Maori and Pacific Islander Hip-hop in Aotearoa-New Zealand." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 280-305. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
- "The History." accessed 11 April 2008. Poi-E home page.
- "Waititi releases new remixed Poi E video". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
- the Twilight Boppers, Christchurch
- Pickmere, Arnold (5 October 2002). "Obituary: Dalvanius Prime". NZ Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- "Poi E: The Story of Our Song will open the NZ International Film Festival". Stuff.co.nz. 18 June 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- Radio interview with Syd and Hui from Patea Maori Club, RadioLIVE
- Poi E video from Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision (was the New Zealand Film Archive)