25 Jun 2019
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Al Fraser - Album Review: Toitu Te Puoro

18 Nov 2018 // A review by Jacquie Walters

Toitu Te Puoro by Al Fraser is a beautiful creation from beginning to end. It’s exquisitely presented in a well-designed CD case with accompanying booklet, which is important given the narrative it contains about Fraser’s journey with taonga puoro and its photographs and descriptions of the instruments made and played by him.


Toitu Te Puoro is itself a taonga. As such it requires a reverential space and listeners who have the time to commit to giving their attention to the album in its entirety. Its production, by Steve Garden and Fraser himself, is immaculate. This clarity is very much needed as this is a nuanced story that is being told.

Elemental and subterranean at times, at other time ethereal and otherworldly, the individual tracks are movements in an overarching narrative. Starting with the gentle coaxing of the opening track Root Cause the lamentation underpinning the piece becomes more urgent in Gestation. The human voice emerges as an instrument only halfway through the album, embedded amongst the instruments at first, before coming to the fore in the mesmerising vocals of Ariana Tikao on Hikoi. The album ends with a call and answer between Ranginui and Papatuanuku.

Toitu Te Puoro requires patience - from Fraser as its creator and from us as listeners - but that patience is richly rewarded with a musicality and depth that is rare and to be treasured.

Subtle and strident, of this world and yet not of this world, this album is as close as we are likely to get to a recorded impression of the sounds of our land and water, of our ancient Aotearoa. Only someone who has committed to the kind of apprenticeship Al Fraser has gone on with taonga puoro could have created this album. Our cultural landscape is richer for his work and dedication.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Al Fraser

Al Fraser is one of the most critically acclaimed and prolific performers of nga taonga puoro of his generation. He has worked with some of the most rigorously artistic, culturally diverse and significant projects in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Al has worked in collaborations with Dr Richard Nunns, TrinityRoots, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and with projects spanning jazz, experimental, ambient, folk, Maori and classical musics.

Toitu Te Puoro is Al’s 5th solo album and he has been a member of collaborative music projects including Tahu, The Woolshed Sessions, Oro, Shearwater Drift and Ponguru. Al was a Wild Creations Artist Resident in 2011, a Churchill Fellow 2016 and a researcher with Otago University and Hokotehi Moriori Trust 2017-2019.

Al is in constant demand for live performances and has performed live with STROMA, Ariana Tikao, New Zealand String Quartet and at all Te Whare Tapere Ki Waimango. Al has worked with dance companies, Atamira and Okareka, and has played at many festivals including WOMAD, and ‘Museums After Dark’ at Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, U.K. He has toured with Chamber Music NZ over four Matariki and his live to air performance on Radio NZ has had over 5000 views in 2 years.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Al Fraser

Releases

Toitu Te Puoro
Year: 2018
Type: Album

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