By Sean McWilliams
The striking, often remarkable sounds of traditional Maori instrumentation have been making popular headway in the last few years, primarily through the works of Whirimakao Black, Moana and the Tribe, and multi-instrumentalist Alistair Fraser. Fraser also happens to be the driving force behind Tahu, a collaborative effort between Fraser, vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Henare Walmsley and guitarist Mike Hogan (with a couple of friends along for the ride). It is an interesting and sometimes, compelling listen. The Maori wind and percussion instruments dominate the recording, with Hogan's classical guitar lines adding a contemporary, at times jazzy, feel to proceedings. It's the slightly modernist feel of the album that helps it to succeed, making it more accessible to casual listeners. First Dawn's clever use of a beautiful morning songbird chorus transports listeners to a forest at dawn, surrounded by the haunting sounds of poiawhiowhio and karangamanu, with a rolling, Flamenco-influenced guitar line throughout to keep things firmly in the present. Other highlights (especially Passacaglia and Hikoi Ki Te Pakanga) achieve a similar effect, and this album is worth experiencing for anyone with even a passing interest in real NZ roots music.