Healthy Lungs, Healthy Hearts and Kapa Haka

Day Whatever + 2

I reckon if you don’t keep count of the days in lockdown the days pass much faster.

57 cars in the New World carpark this morning. No one at the pharmacy. No one at the dairy that has reopened on High Street. A few more walkers this morning including a few mothers walking the excess energy off their children. Fathers probably on the couch watching rugby replays.

So what was I thinking about on this morning’s constitutional? Healthy heart, healthy lungs and kapa haka.

On Day Whatever of these musings-in-public my (real) friend¬†Robin Payne¬†commented that I still need to write about Borneo. I’ll get to that Robin. Soon.

Robin was the Director of Toi Whakaari / NZ Drama School when I joined the board back in the 1990s sometime. Among her many dramatic talents is that of voice tutor. She is an outstanding voice tutor.

Watching her work, I remember back then being reminded of my own voice training in the military; being trained to throw our voices the length of a parade ground, and to pitch the voice above the noise of battle. You need strong healthy lungs to do that.

A few months ago I reconnected with Toi Whakaari at the invitation of the new director Tanea Heke. Tanea was a student when Robin & I were at Toi Whakaari. I was overjoyed to see her become Director. I spoke to her about kapa haka.

COVID-19 has put a stop to kapa haka regionals and has probably postponed the national competition, Te Matatini. But have you noticed that most performers at regionals and nationals have not been voice trained. Some of those groups are almost screeching. Quite a lot of those groups actually. They need professional voice training. It would make a tremendous difference – to borrow a superlative from the Cockwomble-in-Chief in the White House.

I remember once being blessed to be in an ope with Keri Kaa, Rose Pere and Tungia Baker as our kaikaranga. Those three deliberately started the karanga a good 500 metres before any others would, such was the power of their voices, coming from deep down in the puku, off the top of powerful diaphragms. It was an awe inspiring performance that I will remember for the rest of my days.

So I talked to Tanea about how she might become involved in kapa haka. Another string to the Toi Whakaari bow. By working with one or two kapa haka to train all of their voices to the same high standard achieved by our acting graduates. From such small beginnings the impact on performance at Te Matatini could be quite dramatic.

But the best results are gained by those with healthy lungs and healthy hearts. The best defences against COVID-19 and any future viral pandemic are healthy lungs and healthy hearts. Which finally explains the connection between my daily constitutional and random thoughts about Toi Whakaari and kapa haka.

And a wistful thought that maybe kapa haka could become the main health promoting vehicle for our people. Most everything else that has been tried hasn’t lived up to expectations. With our Pasifika cousins we’re still most at risk of death by virus.