Combining the unique sounds of an iconic NZ roots band with traditional Irish music might seem an unlikely mash-up, but the recent performance from Motu : Oileáin was a collaboration that was both soulful and rebellious.
Taking part in the 2015 Tauranga Arts Festival, the seven musicians consist of Warren Maxwell, Rio Hemopo and Ben Wood from Trinity Roots and Irish musicians Alan Doherty, Tola Custy and Gerry Paul along with revered Irish singer Pauline Scanlon.
Their collaboration Motu : Oileáin (“islands” in Te Reo and Irish) is a project masterminded by guitarist Gerry Paul and the group has performed in New Zealand and overseas to rave reviews.
The performance at Baycourt on Monday, 26 October began with the three Irish musicians who treated the audience to some traditional jigs before inviting Pauline Scanlon onto the stage. Fluent in Gaelic, Scanlon is a sweet, husky singer and performed a spellbinding set that included “The Old Churchyard”, “Paddy’s Lamentation” and “Foggy Dew”.
Those in the audience who attended for the Irish aspect may have been unfamiliar with Trinity Roots’ music and their unique blend of soul, jazz, rock and roots – not to mention their legendary meandering instrumental performances – but the band was well received when they performed after the Irish set. Front man Warren Maxwell delivered his usual raspy, good-natured narrative and the trio played a hypnotic first set that included crowd-favourite “Home, Land & Sea.”
After a half hour intermission (also known as “fifteen Irish minutes”) things got underway again and this time all seven performers took to the stage. The Irish musicians provided back-up vocals, flute, fiddle and guitar on songs like “Village Man” from Trinity’s latest album Citizen. The Kiwi trio then reciprocated by backing Scanlon on the haunting “False, False”, a performance that effortlessly contemporised a very old folk song.
While some songs were still recognisable as belonging to one or the other group, much of the second set was a fascinating blend of the two genres. There were stunning flute and fiddle solos and a beautiful rendition of the Maori waiata “Purea Nei” performed in Te Reo by Rio Hemopo which flowed seamlessly into a traditional Irish song sung in Gaelic by Pauline Scanlon. The overall result was a powerful, entrancing musical experience that blended the common themes of language, land and loss.
Gerry Paul said at the end of the night; “Thank you to Trinity Roots for saying yes to this crazy idea.” I couldn’t agree more. I think all who attended had their horizons broadened and that, after all, is what arts festivals should be about.
Motu : Oileáin is:
Warren Maxwell – Vocals, Keys, Guitars
Rio Hemopo – Bass
Ben Wood – Drums, Vocals
Pauline Scanlon – Vocals
Alan Doherty – Flute, Vocals
Tola Custy – Fiddle
Gerry Paul – Guitar, Banjo
Loretta Crawford: ARTbop welcomes new Bay of Plenty Contributor, Writer, Loretta Crawford.