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Welcome to The Lotus Position, an intermittent collection of extempore navel gazings, ponderings, whinges, whines, pontifications and diatribes.

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The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter
Ponder, Scribble, Ponder (Photo Erdotahi Aron)

Guest Nutter/Kindred Soul: Bill Bailey


Friday, 10 August 2007

Sziget 2007 - Day 2 - Haka, Kaizers Orchestra and The Chemical Brothers

On the second day I fulfilled an ambition: I finally got the chance to do the Haka today thanks to Te Matarae I Orehu Maori Dance Group and Wetini Mitai-Ngatai, their leader - choreographer who has been helping to preserve Maori tradition and garnered considerable respect for his efforts - and deservedly so.

I've been to New Zealand numerous times (though not since 2000, now I think about it)- beautiful place, fantastic people. The first few trips were business trips (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch) but the rest were pure pleasure - though it was on the very first trip that I took a week off to drive back across North Island - stopping off at Rotorua, Mt Ruapehu, and so on along the way for thermal parks, spas and a spot of skiing.

Since then my interest in Maori tradition developed in the course of researching IT; I have a wonderful book called The Astronomical Knowledge of the Maori by Elsdon Best in which the traditional knowledge of the "Whanau Marama" - "the children of light" (i.e. the heavenly bodies) was recorded at the beginning of the 20th century; sadly, even then much of the oral traditional knowledge was already lost.

As a tiny illustration of how central astronomical lore was to the Maori (due in no small part to its importance in navigation) consider this lullaby (Best, p5)

I haere mai koe i te ao o Puanga
I te Huihui o Matariki
I a Parearua, i a Poutu-te-rangi
Ka mutu, e tama, nga whetu homai kai ki Aotea

Translation: You come hither from the realm of Rigel, from the Assembly of the Pleiades, from Jupiter and from Poutu-te-rangi [Altair: Best p33]. These alone, O child, are the stars which provide food at Aotea [Great Barrier Island - see wikipedia]

Outside New Zealand, Haka, meaning "words of fire" or "fiery words" (Ha - breath, hence speech, words; ka - fiery), is probably best known by the intimidatory performance of a war haka by the All Blacks rugby team before the start of a game.

According to Wetini Mitai-Ngatai, the whole purpose of the eye rolling, tongue poking and face pulling is to make oneself appear as mad/hungry/fierce as possible - and thus "the uglier the better", so he was naturally very complimentary about my efforts.

What we leant was the Ka Mate haka - Wetini Mitai-Ngatai taught us the movements, the words and the story a piece at a time and so in the course of about half an hour we put it all together and finally performed the whole thing with members of Te Matarae I Orehu Maori Dance Group mingled among the great unwashed who make Sziget what it is. It was a fantastic 45 minutes.

So, after working up a bit of a sweat and getting the adrenalin flowing (we did some Maori martial arts practice games too) it was time to get on with the rest of the day...

Today's unexpected find was the Norwegian rock band Kaizers Orchestra on the main stage (direct links to MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube). They opened the show on the nagyszinpad but should have headlined on some other day instead in my opinion - they easily outclassed some of the other supposed top-draw artists.

Of course, by the time The Chemical Brothers were due on stage at 21:30 the space in front of the main stage was completely full - by which I mean completely full, and considering that it's a space of at least 40,000 square meters the crowd seemed easily 50,000 strong (it looked huge, but the whole capacity of the island is only 70,000 and they definitely weren't all there - just most of them).

Unfortunately, there had been a few of what the BBC had anticipated as "light showers" but which turned out to be short but torrential downpours during the day - necessitating periodic retreat to whatever tented beer pavilion was closest... bummer!) - so whilst not quite up to Glastonbury standards, the ground underfoot was a bit damp and squelchy in places by now. This meant rivers of people skirting large puddles on the way in and trying to keep to the metal sheet areas once they got there (or at least avoiding the major pools).

Excellent show of course. What else can I say?

We caught some Lead Zeppelin on the Blues Stage later - the lead singer looked a bit like a gay Dom Deluise but he had a pretty good Jimmy Page substitute voice.

We probably went to the Roma tent for some gypsy music, but I'm damned if I can tell you who we might have heard.

And it was good.