It's a rugby tactic, it's a dance move, it's the Maori Side Steps

STEP ON IN: Award-winning writer, actor and musician Jamie McCaskill (right) last performed at the War Memorial Theatre in 2012 when it was “tight and shabby”. He and The Maori Side Steps members Rob Mokaraka (left), Jerome Leota, Erroll Anderson and Cohen Holloway look forward to bringing their music and comedy act to the new, improved theatre next month as part of the 2017 Te Ha Trust events. Picture supplied

THE nostalgia of old-school Maori showbands, and the slang term for the rugby tactic of thundering through a defender on the footie field, gave rise to the name for comedy-music act The Maori Side Steps.

Described as Billy T James meets The Modern Maori Quartet, The Maori Side Steps is made up of seasoned performers and scriptwriters such as Rob Mokaraka (Shot Bro), Cohen Holloway (Find Me A Maori Bride), Jerome Leota (The Naked Samoans) rising star Erroll Anderson and award-winning writer, actor and musician Jamie McCaskill.

Part of the act’s inspiration was the well-dressed Modern Maori Quartet. But costumed in top hats and wild colonial-style Union Jack kilts, the “naughty version of a Maori show band” presents a mixed bag of parody, comedy, and creamy old-school crooning.

The Maori Side Steps riff on songs by showbands from a bygone era such as The Hi-Marks and The Howard Morrison Quartet. The rewritten lyrics touch on what is in the news in the centres they perform in.

“We do a lot of parodies but we do a crooning section for some flash content as well,” says McCaskill.

“I grew up hearing this music at guitar parties. We’re triggering the nostalgia but we do a Billy T James-esque type of banter between songs.”

The band performs in Gisborne next month as part of this year’s Te Ha events that commemorate first formal contact between Maori and European with the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook almost 250 years ago.

“For Gisborne, with the commemorations of Captain Cook’s coming here in 1769 we’ll perform a song that parodies Cook’s arrival,” says McCaskill.

The Maori Side Steps made its tongue-in-paparinga debut at a hui in Wellington’s Waitangi Park on Waitangi Day last year.

McCaskill and Mokaraka also wrote a Maori Side Steps web series last year. The short “stepisodes” in te reo and English can be viewed on the group’s Facebook video page and on Maori TV.

“Each generation has their own musicians to inspire them,” says the voice-over to stepisode one.

“This generation only has. . . these guys?”

Backed with a slick, tight soundtrack, the clip opens with the cast working in a Porirua discount emporium owned by Pete who speaks in the back-to-front manner of Star Wars’ Yoda.

McCaskill’s character aspires to co-ownership.

“Jamie,” says Pete (Raybon Kan). “Until your Force awakens, until our emporium strikes back, you’re not ready.”

“Calling all cuz, all cuz” announces blonde Abby over the PA. She wears a pink plastic tiki and is fluent — and flirtatious — in te reo. “We have a code seven in aisle four.”

Code seven is a teko alert but the self-smeared baby in the shopping cart turns out to have made a mess of a bar of chocolate.

And soiled itself as the staff discover in a taste test.

Cleaning themselves up in the smoko room they riff on ideas for a band and come up with . . . some really dumb ones but settle on The Maori Side Steps.

Cue tight but daggy song.

When Jermaine Clement arrives to audition he is told he’s too late.

“I’ve got a Grammy,” he says.

“We’ve all got grandmas,” says one of the Side Steps.

“It’s a ka kite from me.”

The humour is unmistakeably Maori with a smattering of The Monkees in the pop cultural heritage and it’s laugh out loud funny. It’s delivered in a mix of te reo (with subtitles) and English. Chances are, non-reo speakers will absorb some te reo while laughing theira upoko off.

“We speak te reo as much as we can but we keep the show accessible and all-inclusive,” says McCaskill. “We got thousands of views and more than a million views over the whole series.

At the beginning of this year the group’s writers composed a parody called Living Next Door to Maoris, based on Smokie’s 1979 hit Living Next Door to Alice, and released it online on Waitangi Day this year.

The video has had 1.4 million views and counting.

In between tour stops the group will continue work on filming for its second web series season. More opportunities lie ahead for the grassroots showband but these are under wraps for now.

“Good things are coming from the hard work for what we are doing,” says McCaskill.

“People are responding so we’ll keep going.”

THE nostalgia of old-school Maori showbands, and the slang term for the rugby tactic of thundering through a defender on the footie field, gave rise to the name for comedy-music act The Maori Side Steps.

Described as Billy T James meets The Modern Maori Quartet, The Maori Side Steps is made up of seasoned performers and scriptwriters such as Rob Mokaraka (Shot Bro), Cohen Holloway (Find Me A Maori Bride), Jerome Leota (The Naked Samoans) rising star Erroll Anderson and award-winning writer, actor and musician Jamie McCaskill.

Part of the act’s inspiration was the well-dressed Modern Maori Quartet. But costumed in top hats and wild colonial-style Union Jack kilts, the “naughty version of a Maori show band” presents a mixed bag of parody, comedy, and creamy old-school crooning.

The Maori Side Steps riff on songs by showbands from a bygone era such as The Hi-Marks and The Howard Morrison Quartet. The rewritten lyrics touch on what is in the news in the centres they perform in.

“We do a lot of parodies but we do a crooning section for some flash content as well,” says McCaskill.

“I grew up hearing this music at guitar parties. We’re triggering the nostalgia but we do a Billy T James-esque type of banter between songs.”

The band performs in Gisborne next month as part of this year’s Te Ha events that commemorate first formal contact between Maori and European with the arrival of Lieutenant James Cook almost 250 years ago.

“For Gisborne, with the commemorations of Captain Cook’s coming here in 1769 we’ll perform a song that parodies Cook’s arrival,” says McCaskill.

The Maori Side Steps made its tongue-in-paparinga debut at a hui in Wellington’s Waitangi Park on Waitangi Day last year.

McCaskill and Mokaraka also wrote a Maori Side Steps web series last year. The short “stepisodes” in te reo and English can be viewed on the group’s Facebook video page and on Maori TV.

“Each generation has their own musicians to inspire them,” says the voice-over to stepisode one.

“This generation only has. . . these guys?”

Backed with a slick, tight soundtrack, the clip opens with the cast working in a Porirua discount emporium owned by Pete who speaks in the back-to-front manner of Star Wars’ Yoda.

McCaskill’s character aspires to co-ownership.

“Jamie,” says Pete (Raybon Kan). “Until your Force awakens, until our emporium strikes back, you’re not ready.”

“Calling all cuz, all cuz” announces blonde Abby over the PA. She wears a pink plastic tiki and is fluent — and flirtatious — in te reo. “We have a code seven in aisle four.”

Code seven is a teko alert but the self-smeared baby in the shopping cart turns out to have made a mess of a bar of chocolate.

And soiled itself as the staff discover in a taste test.

Cleaning themselves up in the smoko room they riff on ideas for a band and come up with . . . some really dumb ones but settle on The Maori Side Steps.

Cue tight but daggy song.

When Jermaine Clement arrives to audition he is told he’s too late.

“I’ve got a Grammy,” he says.

“We’ve all got grandmas,” says one of the Side Steps.

“It’s a ka kite from me.”

The humour is unmistakeably Maori with a smattering of The Monkees in the pop cultural heritage and it’s laugh out loud funny. It’s delivered in a mix of te reo (with subtitles) and English. Chances are, non-reo speakers will absorb some te reo while laughing theira upoko off.

“We speak te reo as much as we can but we keep the show accessible and all-inclusive,” says McCaskill. “We got thousands of views and more than a million views over the whole series.

At the beginning of this year the group’s writers composed a parody called Living Next Door to Maoris, based on Smokie’s 1979 hit Living Next Door to Alice, and released it online on Waitangi Day this year.

The video has had 1.4 million views and counting.

In between tour stops the group will continue work on filming for its second web series season. More opportunities lie ahead for the grassroots showband but these are under wraps for now.

“Good things are coming from the hard work for what we are doing,” says McCaskill.

“People are responding so we’ll keep going.”

The Maori Side Steps, War Memorial Theatre, October 7, 8pm. Tickets available at Stephen Jones Photography and TicketDirect

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