Raising the Titanics, Raising a Theatre [by James Wenley]
The Maori Volcanics show band in their 60s heyday were arguably our most famous exports. With members included bonafide legends Prince Tui Teka and Billy T James, they took their unique mix of song, comedy, and Maori culture around the world to the USA, Vietnam, Israel, Europe, playing to royalty and appearing on the same bill as other bonafide legends like Sammy Davis Jr.
The Titanics are a band like the Volcanics, though they never existed. Playwright Albert Belz and Producer Tainui Tukiwaho (who coincidentally recently graced our small screen playing Billy T James himself) initially explored doing a play involving the likes of Howard Morrison, Tui Teka and James before going with the story of a fictionalised showband. It’s a clever idea, able to honour the legends without being restricted by biographical details, and to pay tribute to an essential piece of kiwi music history.
It’s a history I fully admit to being quite ignorant of, and by paying homage to the showband culture Raising the Titanics succeeds the most. For those like me, here’s a clip of Billy T James and Prince Tui Teka performing with the Maori Volcanics… enjoy.