I am really excited to be a featured singer in the epic ‘love-letter to peace’ which is John Psathas’ ‘No Man’s Land’. I met John about a year ago, and didn’t quite know how huge and amazing this project was when I first was asked to join in.

This is what it says on the project’s website by way of an introduction: “Acclaimed New Zealand composer John Psathas, ONZM is leading the creation of a ground breaking new cinematic performance in commemoration of the First World War.  Musicians descended from opposing forces of the Great War will be brought together on the battlefields of WWI in an original composition.  These musical collaborations will be fused into a unique 70 minute film, to be projected alongside live musicians on-stage.  All musicians, live and virtual, will perform as one epic global orchestra”.

My part was filmed last November out at Whitireia. It was a beautiful location to film at, and one that has a particular resonance for me. It is in Ngati Toa territory, and is close to the location where most of my whanau were taken as captives after the Ngati Toa raids of the South Island. The effects and ramifications of war in this land go further back than World War One. I was always told by my father as a child to never trust Ngati Toa, and so in his mind, we were still to be suspicious of them. However, I ended up marrying a direct descendant of Te Rauparaha, hence, reinforcing the peace marriages that took place after that turbulent period of our history.

So there I was singing my waiata about unity, and bringing people in and across generations together, in a location that is where my ancestors were taken in the early 1830s. There was something significant about that. Before we began filming, I said a mihi and a karakia, along with all of those in our little filming party who were also present. I was aware that they had just returned from filming in all of those battlegrounds overseas. I wanted to help ground them back onto our own soil, but also mihi to the mana whenua, Ngati Toa. The people after all, who allowed my whanau to continue on, once they were freed, most of them returned home to become leaders in our community, and my tipuna. The people, who are also the iwi of my children.

I met the musicians last night from ‘No Man’s Land’ who have been performing the live shows, and it was a privelege to meet them, and to understand more about this ambitious project with a huge heart. I look forward to seeing it at Womad this weekend. Thank you John Psathas for inviting me to be a part of the ‘No Man’s Land’ whanau, and for allowing me to share my voice with the other ca 150 musicians who participated.

Tuia i ruka

Tuia i raro

Tuia i roto

Tuia i raro

Te huka mate ki te huka mate

Te huka ora ki te huka ora

Tihei mauri ora!


You can listen to Rachel Hyde’s review of No Man’s Land on Radio NZ

Photo of filming at Whitireia, by Jasmine Millet.