WORD Christchurch 2023: Fresh flows at Confluence

Confluence at The Piano on Saturday night was a celebration of Māori and Pasifika spoken word, music, and movement. A meeting of cultures, flowing and mixing, highlighting our strong oral traditions and the importance of whānau.

I had heard of this event in the last two WORD festival programmes, and I was not going to miss it this year.

The air outside The Piano was fresh, as the crowds gathered in the courtyard enjoying hotdogs and hip-hop put on by The Christchurch Hip-hop Summit crew.

We moved inside to the warm theatre space adorned with siapo and ‘ei katu. Published works, like portraits, placed in esteem at the front of the stage. There was no mistaking this was a nesian space tonight.

The vā continued to be set as award winning musician TJ Taotua and The Judah Band (Iona Ulaula on drums, Motoi Shibuswa on guitar, Vincent Lasei on keys and Seta Timo on bass) played soulful beats as the audience filled the seats.

Daisy Lavea Timo (Daisy Speaks), poet, local legend, and effortlessly cool host for the night welcomed us in te reo Māori and gagana Samoa, explaining the structure of the evening. Like any true Māori and Pasifika ceremony it would be words strengthened by music before, in between, and after.

Daisy Lavea Timo (Daisy Speaks), Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023
Daisy Lavea Timo (Daisy Speaks), Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023

First up was author of The Bone Tree Airana Ngawera with a powerful whaikorero of his family’s “complicated history with authority.” Acknowledging ancestral exile, segueing into hilarious anecdotes of whānau, and growing up in Patea.

Uber talented rangatahi, Micahlei Timo, opened her set with a beautiful rendition of Samoa Tula’i on flute. She then had us all reaching for tissues with her poem My Grandfather’s Seiko Watch. Backed up by her mother Daisy, and father Seta in the band, Micahlei proved that the Lavea Timos are one talented family, rapping out to the soulful hip-hop track Black Kennedy.

On that note of talented families, the Soakai brothers, Eric, Dietrich & Zech would take to the mic throughout the night. Each taking turns to introduce each other as only brothers can. I wish my siblings would think of me as dependable and accommodating as a 97 Mitsubishi Galant!

Spoken word royalty Zech performed pieces that spoke to his anger at systems that do not serve us, the greatness of our oceans and the network of our resilience. The incredible Dietrich performed two new poems. The first to honour his wife and the second, poignant and painful, was about gafa and the human experience. Eric, 2019 Poetry slam winner, honoured the past in an ode to his mother and great-grandfather. Listening to these pieces through tears, I remembered how amazing poets can be. The ability to move an audience from laughter to great sadness in the space of a stanza (see Miss I did pay attention in English!), a line, a word is such a skill.

Dietrich Soakai, Confluence, WORD Christchurch
Dietrich Soakai, Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023.

The amazing TJ Taotua, and Judah Band took to the stage once again and brought the smoothest RnB vibes à la the likes of Al Green, Blackstreet, John Legend & Tevin Campbell.

DJ Taotua and The Judah Band, Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023
DJ Taotua and The Judah Band, Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023

Back to poetry, Ruby Solly, author of Toku Papa reinforced that connection with whenua and terrain. Her poem Subterranean dragging us down into the earthy wetlands of Turangi and pushing us back out again.

Ruby Solly, Confluence, WORD Christchurch
Ruby Solly, Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023.

Seira Ale, Miss Samoa New Zealand runner-up, brought more tradition, movement and grace to the space, mesmerising everyone with a stunning Taualuga.

Seira Ale, Confluence, WORD Christchurch
Seira Ale, Confluence, WORD Christchurch 2023.

The finale songs from TJ and the band had the audience dancing in the aisles not wanting to leave.

The smiles on everyone’s faces, both audience and performers, as we did tell just how important holding space like this is. Where we can be excellent, be angry, be vulnerable, without having to explain, without having to apologise.

Fa’afetai Daisy for curating such an amazing night. Confluence was refreshing to my Pasifika soul.

Yes, the air outside The Piano was fresh but I can tell you, the flow inside that night at Confluence was the freshest! Lessgo wan solwara famali!

Pasifika Community Liaison

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