7 Dec 2021
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Dalvanius Prime

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In his teens the Maori cultural leader and entrepreneur Dalvanius Prime, who died of cancer aged 54 (October 3, 2002), started singing in dancehalls and maraes, and in 1969 he formed a band, The Fascinations, from members of his family. They won a radio talent contest and began touring Australasia.

His first big hit was E I Po with legendary Maori entertainer Prince Tui Teka. Dalvanius then began to write songs aimed at providing the Maori community with its own pop idols and set up Maui Records.

The Patea Maori Club's single Poi-E became New Zealand's biggest hit of 1984. With its Hip-Hop beats and a video of local kids breakdancing around their Marae, the song established a Polynesian Hip-Hop scene that persists throughout the South Pacific.

The Patea Maori Club were a youth group drawn from the streets of Patea, a town devastated by the closure of its abattoirs. The toured the US and Britain in 1986, presenting Poi-E as a fascinating blend of musical theatre and a socio-political statement as they sang the effect of unemployment upon their community.

Dalvanius was born Maui Carlyle (Kararai) Prime (Paraima) in Patea in 1948, a rural Maori community in the North Island's west coast. He grew up with six brothers and four sisters, in conditions he described as rough. His ex-serviceman father Ephraim played several instruments and his mother Josephine was a talented singer. Ephraim wanted to name his son after a fellow soldier, Dalvanius, who had died in wartime Rome. The name did not make the birth certificate, but it stuck. Brought up a Mormon, he attended the Latter Day Saints' College, but was suspended for playing Rock n Roll on the school's church organ.

During the late 1980s, Dalvanius composed and produced music for Maori film soundtracks and helped to set up the Maori radio network, Aotearoa Radio. He remained musically active, even being invited to sing in front of the King of Thailand in 1996, while encouraging such young Maori groups as Wai 100% and Moana & The Moa Hunters.

Dalvanius was a gentle giant with a passion for the miniature, especially Chihuahua dogs and prize-winning silver-faced Wyandotte chickens. He died surrounded by his family singing Poi-E and his tangi was one of the largest in recent times. He is survived by one daughter, Alishiba Prime. He was never married.

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