Rob Ruha and Ria Hall are bringing their highly acclaimed live show Behind The Lines to New Zealand, after a sold-out performance at the Darwin Arts Festival. The pair dropped in to give RNZ Music's Alex Behan the lowdown.
The Behind The Lines tour sees multi-award-winning Aotearoa artists, Rob Ruha and Ria Hall, join forces for a dynamic two-hour performance, which aims to convey powerful messages about nationhood, cultural endurance, spirituality and unity.
Rob and Ria dropped in to give RNZ Music's Alex Behan the lowdown.
Rob and Ria are both finalists for the Maioha Award at this year's Silver Scroll songwriting awards. Karyn Hay is hosting live coverage of the ceremony on 101 FM RNZ National from 9pm on Thursday 4th October.
Alex: You’ve had a chance to put the show out there a couple of times already, most recently at the Darwin Arts Festival. What was it like performing the show in a very different cultural setting?
Rob: Yeah it was pretty mean. Well received, it was a sell-out show and we didn’t pull any punches. We delivered the messages that we will be delivering throughout the country to a majority pākeha audience, mostly Australians.
There were people in the crowd who had travelled all the way from places like Dubai to come and watch the show. It was received really well and that’s our hope too, we’re not there to bash anyone.
We’re just there to have a really good conversation with some really good music.
Ria: It was wonderful to be able to share our stories and our version of events from an Aotearoa perspective over there in Australia. They received everything with an open heart and we want exactly the same for Aotearoa.
We want people to come and experience this with an open heart and an open mind because everyone on stage, everyone involved with the show is giving everything. All of ourselves.
Alex: What is the experience you are hoping to give to the audience?
Rob: I think in our life’s work and our life’s mission and what we do as individual artists is to offer music that is thought-provoking and that presents our perspective - with a whole heap of love and aroha - and welcomes people into a discussion that I think we need to have as a nation.
Ria: I completely agree with all of that ... we have a goal and it’s exactly what Rob said, trying to begin a discussion. We’ve traversed that in our own individual works, so when we began discussing ideas and coming up with this concept for Behind The Lines it was a no-brainer.
We knew in our hearts what we wanted to bring to the nation and we’re just so excited about the tour.
Alex: It sounds a bit full-on and a bit serious, but I know that there will be joy, and I know that there will be dancing and maybe there will be tears, but there will also be clapping. I can imagine some people being apprehensive about going to such an immersive show. Perhaps people who feel they don’t know enough te reo or enough about Māori culture.
Rob: Tell that to the sell-out crowd in Darwin who were mostly pākeha and mostly Australians!
It’s for everyone, we built it for everyone. Absolutely there are times when we want you to sit down and contemplate some really heavy topics and topics that have been weighing heavily on our hearts for generations. But then also, I mean we had that crowd rocking too.
Not just there but also at the Brisbane show and at Tūrangawaewae [marae at Ngāruawāhia]. So we’ve had three trial runs with this kaupapa and all of them have been an exciting rollercoaster of energy, of contemplation, of solemn times and big huge booms. It’s an exciting space we are wanting to occupy.
Ria: It's an opportunity for all of us as people that occupy this country and call Aotearoa home ... to become liberated together. In our whanau we feel that this is the best way to do that ... through the arts, through music, through this style of conversation.
We’re allowing the audience to really contemplate and think about what’s happening.
Rob: And we’re there to hold your hand all the way through and guide what those conversations can be, what those new frontiers of nationhood could be when we’re in it together.
Alex: The show is taking place at some pretty significant venues across the country and it seems to me to be quite a moment: two artists putting on a show in such significant venues, largely in te reo Māori and based on Māori tikanga.
These shows will probably sell out, it’s a real time of renaissance for te reo Māori and Māori culture right now particularly in the arts.
Rob: Yeah it think it’s a real time for us as a nation and not just for Māori culture. It’s indigenous people rising up and wanting to share, even more now, who we are, to help establish this massive thing called nationhood.
Reo Māori is definitely a part of that, our history and our culture is definitely a part of that and we work from the premise that we look back to look to the future. Why do we do that? Because success leaves clues.
That’s what this whole kaupapa is about. Taking the really awesome bits of our culture, sitting down at a table and sharing with one another and then moving forward and getting some fantastic vision and going on.
Behind The Lines take place in six New Zealand centres.
- Theatre Royal / New Plymouth 18th October
- Te Papa / Wellington 19th October
- Gaiety Theatre / Wairoa 21st October
- Spiegeltent / Napier 22nd October
- The Piano / Christchurch 2nd November
- Q Theatre / Auckland 3rd November