The Modern Maori Quartet perform party songs on their own TV series

Musician and actor James Tito, right, is a founding member of The Modern Maori Quartet.

Musician and actor James Tito, right, is a founding member of The Modern Maori Quartet.

The Modern Maori Quartet are set to display their musical talent in a series celebrating party songs.

Each week on Maori Television's My Party Song, the popular showband will belt out musical numbers often heard at New Zealand parties.

The band, made up of actors and singers Francis Kora, Maaka Pohatu, Matariki Whatarau and James Tito, host a special guest each week who is invited to perform one of their favourite party songs.

The Modern Maori Quartet performs with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra NZSO.
THOMAS DRENT

The Modern Maori Quartet performs with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra NZSO.

Guests on the show include Temuera Morrison, Jan Hellreigel, Ria Hall and Troy Kingi. 

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"There are about four songs per episode – three of which we sing and then one is from a guest who shares their favourite party song," says Tito. 

"It sort of just opens up the world of parties in New Zealand and, more specifically, Maori garage parties and opens it up to the diversity of the characters that were out at these gatherings and how the Maori strum goes."

The Modern Maori Quartet are currently finishing off their nationwide tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. After that are various performances booked at overseas venues.

The group's members attended Wellington drama school Toi Whakaari and fit acting gigs around their music. 

Whatarau stars in Find Me A Maori Bride, Tito has appeared in local film Mahana, Kora was a presenter on sports show Code, while Pohatu played Dalvanius Prime in the flick Poi E: The Story Of Our Song.

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A few years ago The Modern Maori Quartet were the houseband on Happy Hour, a short-lived television variety show that was hosted by Temuera Morrison and Keisha Castle-Hughes. 

Tito, 28, who is part Cook Island and whose tribal affiliations are Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngapuhi, was one of The Modern Maori Quartet's founders.

"I had an idea for a Maori Rat Pack where we would do singing between acting gigs that weren't coming thick and fast," he says.

"This whole thing started as a necessity to stay busy and not work at a bar and now it's full-time and has been for the last three and a half years – at least eight or nine months out of the year. It's amazing to make a living out of this while still living in New Zealand."

My Party Song, Maori Television, starts Thursday 23 March, 9.30pm

 - TV Guide

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