'Poi E' by the Patea Maori Club

Māori songs have rarely hit the charts in New Zealand. That all changed in 1984, when the hit ‘Poi E’ spent four weeks at no. 1 and 22 weeks in the charts.

Proud to be Māori

Written by linguist Ngoi Pewhairangi with music by Dalvanius Prime, the song was a way to encourage young Māori to be proud of being Māori – in a format that young people were comfortable with. The two got together in 1982 and wrote ‘Poi E’ and two other songs in a single day. ‘I could hum a tune and she could write Māori words and phrases which were exactly the same as the tune,’ Prime recalled.

As record companies weren’t interested in the song. Prime decided to form his own label, Maui Records, and recorded ‘Poi E’ in late 1983. The Pātea Māori Club provided the vocals above a funky rhythm that featured bass, Linn drums and a synthesiser.

Thanks to TV

Commercial radio barely played the song, but a TV story on Eyewitness news gave it publicity. Still largely unheard on radio, the song hit the top of the charts in March 1984.

Overseas it was big as well. The Pātea Māori Club toured the United Kingdom in 1984, playing at the London Palladium and the Edinburgh Festival and giving a Royal Command Performance. British magazine New Musical Express named ‘Poi E’ its single of the week.

Urban marketing

On the streets, young Māori loved the song. The early 1980s was the height of the break-dancing craze, and kids performed to it in Auckland’s Aotea Square and elsewhere. Prime had seen it as a way to market Māori language and culture, especially in the urban context with its emphasis on consumerism.

The song later expanded into a musical that told the story of the effects of the closure of the freezing works on the small town of Pātea.

Boy and the ‘Poi E’ revival

In 2010 ‘Poi E’ was used in the popular Taika Waititi movie, Boy. Along with a remake of the video using actors from the film and another with the original members, this saw the song back on the New Zealand music charts.

Credit

This video clip is sourced from the YouTube website. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage does not claim any responsibility for the contents or copyright status of the clip.

See related article and 2010 version of the video on Stuff

How to cite this page: ''Poi E' by the Patea Maori Club', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/video/poi-e, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-May-2014

Community contributions


Sharon Lee Hurunui
16 Sep 2011
I have yet to see if anyone out there has a video, audio tape of 1994 South Taranaki Cultural Club (aka Patea Maori Club / Aotea Utanganui) dress rehearsal. (Held at Patea Primary School).
Val
12 May 2010
Poi-E I just love that song and the Patea Group doing it. Why not have that as the song for the Rugby World Cup. It's the best. I used to learn clogging and we did a dance to that music fantastic
inonymous
30 Oct 2009
have just discovered this site while researching for early NZ music for a programme I am doing for our local vintage radio station, congrats, a fine site that I have read with interest, Ian Currie.

What do you know?