I was browsing the internet looking for something completely different when I came across this song, Tarakihi, an old Maori haka sung by New Zealand’s most famous soprano, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, with a dozen Maori back-up vocalists. When I heard it, the hair on my arms stood up – it is simply breathtaking. The song itself, according to Mahinarangi Tocker, who sang with Dame Kiri, is more than three hundred years old, composed by a Ngati Maniapoto Maori poet who wrote about the sound of cicadas, hiding by night and singing by day. Anyone who’s been in New Zealand in the summer knows intimately the sound of millions of little tarakihi – loud, proud and sizzling with an electric energy – much like this song. And much like New Zealand – a small country with so much big talent.
What gets me most is the interlock between an old Maori haka and a full Western orchestra, that blend of cultural styles a superb testament to the power we have collectively, the beauty of united cultures rather than any attempt to impose one narrow standard on everyone, or to ‘preserve’ a collection of separate ethnic heritages as if in aspic. The whole is greater than the sum of all our different parts. This is the future of music – and hopefully the future for us all.