Unique fusion of cultures

Tui Mamaki brings her hypnotic fusion of cultures to Bellamy’s Gallery. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Tui Mamaki brings her hypnotic fusion of cultures to Bellamy’s Gallery. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Tui Mamaki describes herself as a vocal explorer, and I can see why.

Her fascination with voice has taken her to France, India and, more recently, Bulgaria where she spent a few years exploring the country's vocal traditions.

This weekend, she is bringing her hypnotic fusion of cultures to Dunedin as part of a unique tour, which includes concerts and singing workshops.

``I've been learning their old folk songs, and they have fascinating rhythms and ways of using the voice, which I get really inspired by,'' Tui explains. ``Part of learning those songs is also being able to teach them.''

Through her original compositions she's weaved ideas from these traditional folk songs with her own inspirations. While the Bulgarian influence is evident in her haunting, microtonal singing and odd rhythms, the songs are unique original entities. They're beautiful, and it's exciting to hear a slice of a musical culture which differs so much in its practices from our own.

But while the technical implementation may differ, the themes in her songs are universal.

``There are love stories. There are stores of loss, which is the flipside of love, there's love in the sense of balance, like finding your own balance in life, like we all have to.

``Some of the songs are kind of about pieces of wisdom I've come across along the way, about learning how to be present and connected to the potential of life and to other people ...

``All of the rhythms are inspired by those odd meters and all of the melodies are quite Eastern, but the songs are written like any other singer-songwriter would write songs; from their environment and their inspiration.''

I asked her to explain what it was that attracted her to Bulgarian music specifically, and what made it different from Western styles of music.

``The way they use their voice, the very emotional timbre ... It's not soft. It can be quite strident, it's a little bit like the karanga in Maori.

``The other thing is the ornaments. Their melodies sometimes have really beautiful subtle ornaments, shapes in the melody line which are quite tricky but interesting vocally.

``And the third thing is the rhythms, although maybe that should be the first thing. I'm a rhythm addict: I love to learn new ones and see how they feel. At first, they feel very strange and foreign and then you start to feel the groove.''

If you would like to learn more about Bulgarian vocal traditions, you could attend Tui's workshop today. Spaces are extremely limited, but you can find out more at www.tuimamaki.com/workshops.

For everyone else, tomorrow's concert is not to be missed. It's at Bellamy's Gallery, a lovely little gallery on Otago Peninsula and the perfect environment for music as captivating as Tui's.

I asked Tui what people should expect from the concert.

``People should expect to be transported. It's a different time and place, so they can really just soak in and go for a ride.

``And also I'll have another artist with me on that night. He has a fabulous storytelling capacity and a beautiful voice. He's called Monty Bevins.

``In Bulgaria, where I've been mostly based for the past few years, the way they see the job of a singer is really interesting. They think that singers are here to make our soul well.

``So, if you're a singer, you belong to the people and they can turn you on like a tap for a song anytime.''

For more from Fraser Thompson go to dunedinsound.com.

The shows
If you would like to learn more about Tui’s workshop, visit www.tuimamaki.com/workshops.

 Tui Mamaki with Monty Bevins, 7pm tomorrow at Bellamy’s Gallery, 495 Portobello Rd. $15 on the door.

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