Whānau reunion: Pacific Underground at the Christchurch Town Hall

When I think of entertainment featuring musical families it's usually 'The Sound of Music' and 'The Partridge Family' that spring to mind. Now, both of those are wholesome and entertaining, but also not anywhere near approaching "cool". But Pacific Underground's Meet me at The Dog House concert at the James Hay Theatre on Saturday night was like an amazing whānau reunion where everyone is disgustingly talented AND cooler than anybody has reason to be.

Over two and a bit hours we were treated to a succession of accomplished performers ranging in ages from teens to senior citizens, and music in genres from reggae, and blues, to R & B and hip hop, ably MC'ed by Flo Lafai and Ra Dallas (the latter of whom revealed he was "discovered" when PU leader Tanya needed a Māori male actor for a play so headed to Ngā Hau e Whā marae to find one).

While each performer had a song or two they shared, the performances overlapped with each other as someone jumped behind a drumkit, or stood up to do backing vocals on different songs as needed. With the rear of the stage set up with a line of couches for whānau and peformers to hang out on, the feeling of 'aiga, or family, was strong. Yes, this was a professional concert featuring highly-skilled musicians... but also, let's just hang and jam, eh?

Though the whole show was an amazing showcase of talent there were still some standouts, not the least of which were the offspring of Pacific Underground leaders Pos Mavaega and Tanya Muagututi'a whose beautiful voices added so much to the night, but in particular their son, the youngest member of Pacific Underground, whose original song for his beloved Nan had quite a few of the audience in tears. 

And I loved seeing three generations of my own whānau singing together. In 1999 my uncle, Joe Tamaira, won a competition to find a Canterbury theme song to celebrate the year 2000. I never heard it as I was living in the UK at the time, and he never heard it performed as he moved to Australia before the millennium celebrations. On Saturday night we all heard it and sang along with the chorus while Uncle Joe's daughter and granddaughter sang back-up vocals.

Though my favourite part of the night would have to be seeing my cousin Sarah (aka Voodoo Child) in an oversized Adidas sweatshirt and thighboots spitting rhymes with Ladi 6 on "If I gave u th' mic", because that song is a legitimate New Zealand hip hop anthem and I fangirl hard for Sheelahroc. Scribe jumping up and freestyling into the mix didn't hurt either. He got up and did his thing at several points in the evening and he is as talented, and has as commanding a stage presence as he ever has. He had the whole crowd joining in from North, South, East and West Canterrburrrryyyy. And if there's a person in New Zealand who can hear the question "how many dudes you know roll like this?" and not yell out "not many, if any" in response, that person was not at this concert.

The audience were also treated to a couple of original songs from consumate crooner Dallas Tamaira (of Fat Freddy's Drop), and the evening was bookended by the song "Pure love", initially sung by Tanya and her daughter, and at the end with... pretty much everyone, as it turned into a massive jam. 

By the end the entire audience was whooping and clapping. It had the feel of a church performance, but one where the only dogma is music, family, and returning to loved ones. As more than one of the performers said during the course of this unique concert "when Pos (Mavaega) puts out the call... you come".

Here's hoping he feels like calling again sometime soon.

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Christchurch Arts Festival 2019

The biennial Christchurch Arts Festival brings a mix of performances to Ōtautahi. The 2019 Festival highlights Christchurch creations. The 2019 Christchurch Arts Festival runs from Friday 26 July to Sunday 4 August. Browse the full festival programme to see all the events, concerts, activities, and exhibitions. Visit our page on the Christchurch Arts Festival for event previews, reports and more.