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The Poi E movie’s secret gem

Patea Maori Club perform Poi E - article by Make Lemonade NZ

Poi E is New Zealand’s song for all generations and there is a mounting sense of curiosity about the $1 million box office movie that poignantly tells the song’s story. The documentary film is packed full of inspirational treasures that every Kiwi from any background and culture should experience, but what really hits home is the beautiful meaning behind the song’s lyrics. Film producers Reikura and Tearepa Kahi made a modern translation of the Poi E song for the release of the film Poi E – the Story of our Song.

The lyrics that many of us Kiwis have been bopping to for more than 30 years are a secret gem presented during the film at just the right time to leave the audience with goosebumps and in some cases, a tear in the eye.

The lyrics are unbelievably reflective of how beautiful the Māori culture is and just how much warmth is felt for the younger generation. Many of us have embraced Poi E since the 80s, chanted the catchy chorus and swung our imaginary poi as we danced energetically across the living room. What we have failed to achieve all of these years is to listen, understand and speak the lyrics of the entire song.

Most of us will never accomplish the skill level of the Pātea Māori Club when singing Poi E nor will we get to perform in front of the Queen as they did in 1985. We could however, make an effort to learn more about the song that has inspired generations and is quite rightly known as New Zealand’s unofficial national anthem.

Below is a sneak preview of the lyric translation but to see the entire translation head along to cinemas quick as the film won’t be screening forever. Watching the movie allows you get to know more about the amazing people who created the song, performed it around the world and supported the song’s tremendous success.

Poi E – the Story of our Song on Facebook:

Those who watch the documentary are left feeling emotional and inspired and can’t help but rave to others about how proud it made them feel. This is one of those movies that gives you a little lump in the throat and a happy glow of admiration.

The film reflects a community that wanted its children to be confident, embrace their culture and believe in all things possible. It is about how one talented entertainer, Dalvanius Prime, had a genius vision to combine both pop and Māori cultures with modern and traditional sounds to create a magical song that brought joy to all New Zealanders and has continued to captivate us for more than three decades.

Quick facts about the song and the film:

  • Dalvanius Prime was not fluent in Te Reo so he worked with Māori language composer Ngoi Pēwhairangi to write the lyrics
  • Poi E is the only song written and released entirely in Te Reo Māori to ever reach number one
  • The film’s writer and director Tearepa Kahi was only seven when the song was first released
  • The song reached number one on the NZ Pop Charts in 1984 and remained in the charts for 34 weeks outselling Thriller and I Just Called to Say I Love You
  • The Pātea Māori Club performed the song around the world, including at a Royal Gala for the Queen in 1985
  • The song has been in the Top 10 in New Zealand every decade for the past 30 years
  • By the end of August 2016, the month of its release, the Poi E movie soundtrack was the number one NZ Album
  • Today the Pātea Māori Club includes four generations of performers: one of the nannies, her daughter, her daughter’s daughter and her daughter’s daughter’s daughter! They continue to practise every Monday night in their Pātea clubrooms.

Learning the song and understanding its meaning is something that all New Zealanders should aspire to achieve and going to see the movie is a logical first step. The next step is to head home, turn up the sound system, bring out those bop moves and practise the lyrics until you can sing every verse in Te Reo Māori!

Review overview
Summary A must see movie for every New Zealander. This isn't a blockbuster but it's the feel good film to watch if you want to laugh, cry, sing, dance and leave the theatre feeling proud to be Kiwi!
Janelle Blythe
Make Lemonade's news editor.

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