Poi E: The Story of Our Song

Written and directed by Tearepa Kahi (Mt Zion) and starring Maaka Pohatu (The Modern Maori Quartet, Two Little Boys) the film tells the story of musician Dalvanius Prime and the origin of the song “Poi E”, a ground-breaking fusion of 1980s pop and traditional Māori music. “Poi E”, composed by Dalvanius and Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi and performed by the Patea Māori Club, remains the only song in Te Reo Māori to reach No 1 in the charts, over 30 years since its 1984 release.


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  • ★★★★★ review by Karl von Randow on Letterboxd

    Seen at the world premiere at the opening of the New Zealand International Film Festival 2016. Absolutely delightful. Full of amazing, natural personalities. A story full of heart without pretence. A story of the local and international success of a small town Maori community; it captures what it feels like to be a New Zealander.

  • ★★★★ review by Steve Austin on Letterboxd

    Any cynicism I held about the politics or situation going into this was swiftly swept aside early on by the sheer good natured humour and terrific sense of pacing.

    As well as being a document of the song and the times, director Tearepa Kahi augments otherwise flat moments with intimate clips and nostalgic footage with all of the different media at his disposal to create a surprising visual collage poem that should be required viewing for every kiwi.

    It does flit a little too quickly over the death of Dalvanius (although we certainly feel the depth of the loss), takes a non-controversial stance on the politics of the time (but neatly eschews the potentially cringey intro at the Royal Gala from Rolf Harris), and does seem to stumble a couple of times on its own nostalgic logic.

    But those are minor quibbles at what is an absolutely top-notch insight into one of the cultural marker-points of late-20th-Century New Zealand pop culture.

  • ★★★★½ review by Aquila on Letterboxd

    Watching this felt like a transcendent experience; joyful, tearful, celebratory, familiar, revelatory. And I'm just a Pakeha with a very limited musical appreciation.

    It's such a gift that this fascinating story has been given a truly great film treatment that really honours it. Not just cutting from archival footage to talking heads; the film's director Tearapa Kahi uses an impressive range of techniques to put the audience right there at the song's inception, and lays out it's importance not just to Patea and Maori but to all of New Zealand, with good-natured humour and real affection for everyone who took part in the unprecedented triumph that was Poi E.

    And it was a wonderful film to open the New Zealand Film Festival, the atmosphere of the crowd at Auckland' Civic Theatre was truly delighted and delightful. I hope everyone else's experience of the film is as moving as mine was.

    E rere ra e taku poi porotiti

    Tītahataha ra, whakararuraru e


  • ★★★★ review by Tarryn-tino on Letterboxd

    Poi E is a song I've known my whole life, but it never had any real special meaning to me, it was just one of those familiar songs that I would hum along to when it would come on and when I was overseas, it would make me think of home.

    When they decided to make a movie about the background of the song and the making of the video, I thought it was kinda cool, but I didn't rush out to see it, mainly because 2016 was a pretty busy year for me. So when I went home on holiday a few weeks ago, I decided to grab it on DVD and I'm really glad I did.

    Watching the making of this classic Māori tune really gave Poi E a whole new meaning for me and I think it will be what I will carry with me from now on.

    If you're not from NZ, I'm not quite sure you would understand the meaning of this song for NZ, but maybe you can appreciate the story anyway.

    Poi E lyrics & translation

    E rere rā e taku poi porotiti

    Tītahataha rā, whakararuraru e

    Porotakataka rā, poro hurihuri mai

    Rite tonu ki te tīwaiwaka e

    Ka parepare rā, pīoioi ā

    Whakahekeheke e, kia korikori e

    Piki whakarunga rā, māminga mai rā

    Taku poi porotiti, taku poi e!

    Poi E, whakatata mai

    Poi E, kaua he rere kē

    Poi E, kia piri mai ki au

    Poi E, awhi mai rā

    Poi E, tāpekatia mai

    Poi E, ō tāua aroha

    Poi E - paiheretia rā

    POI... TAKU POI, E!

    Take flight my sweet young fledgling

    To distant shores which will challenge you

    And should you ever doubt yourself, look deep inside

    And dance with the joy of a fantail

    Bobbing and weaving

    Shaking and swaying

    Spinning and twirling

    Moving and grooving

    Moon-walking to the heavens

    Fanning out your tail to the world

    My one and only, sweet precious child

    Poi e - stay close to me

    Poi e - never lose your identity

    Poi e - embrace your culture

    Poi e - it will see you through

    Poi e - let it always be

    Poi e - our love for each other

    Poi e - which binds us together

    Poi e - my sweet child

  • ★★★★★ review by George E. on Letterboxd

    I love this country

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