Visitors greeted by haka

Maori tradition greeted some special Spanish visitors in the Octagon yesterday.

Fourteen members of the Kings High School kapahaka group brought the lower Octagon to a standstill as they welcomed Barcelona's Camut Band to Dunedin.

Camut Band founder Toni Espanol thanked the pupils with a hearty "kia ora" before the band responded with a dance and percussion cameo performance of its own, which sent the Octagon pigeons scattering.

"It was amazing," Espanol said afterwards.

"It was very emotive. One part is war and the other part is love. This energy is new for us."

The Camut Band members had been fascinated by Maori culture since seeing a haka performed at Valencia during the 2007 America's Cup, Espanol said.

"It was a lovely welcome," dancer Rafael Mendez said through Dunedin Spanish interpreter Carmen Aliberch.

"The mixture of the strength and the power and the peaceful songs, with a little bit of comedy. It was very nice for us."

Actors Maaka Pohatu, Paolo Rotondo and Rob Mokaraka from the play Strange Resting Places later sang songs about Maori and Italian soldiers at Monte Cassino in World War 2.

"This welcome is a very significant and important thing to be able to do for our guests. There are similarities between the haka and what Camut do," festival director Nicholas McBryde said.

"It was really good of the Kings guys to come in and do this for us, as they're in the middle of school holidays at the moment."

The Camut Band plays at the Regent Theatre tonight and tomorrow.

The Spanish Ambassador to New Zealand, Marcos Gomez, will make his first visit to Dunedin today to hold a reception for the Camut Band and fellow-Spanish acts Tricicle and Tierra Flamenca.

New Zealand playwrights will talk at the City Library this weekend about their new plays appearing in the festival.

Sarah McDougall (Things I Hate about Mother at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery), Vivienne Plumb (The Cape at The Playhouse) and Emily Duncan (Palliative Care at the Globe Theatre) will talk about the plays, which all premiere at the festival.

The free forum will be chaired by Playmarket director Mark Amery.

It starts at noon on Sunday on the fourth floor of the City Library.



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