Moteo Jazz Band

aka Moteo Māori Jazz Band, Moteo Māori Orchestra

These days, there is not much to see at the rural Hawke’s Bay crossroads of Moteo Pā Road and Moteo Marae Road, 10km west of Napier: half-a-dozen letter boxes, some modest houses, and some vineyards in the distance. This unlikely location nurtured one of New Zealand’s earliest jazz bands, with an all-Māori lineup of musicians. The Moteo Jazz Band was very popular in the province, and travelled and performed further afield, including to Waikato, where the appeared alongside Princess Te Puea’s influential concert party Te Pou o Mangatāwhiri.

The Moteo Jazz Band emerged in the 1920s from the Moteo String Orchestra, which was active during the end of the First World War. The origins of their interest and knowledge in contemporary popular music – and jazz – is unknown, but there is a strong likelihood that Walter Smith was involved.

Moteo marae, 2017.
Kawhia Settler and Raglan Advertiser, 4 May 1928
Moteo Jazz band, c. 1930. Back row (L-R): Dave Karauria, Dusky (Whiuwhiu) Pineaha, Harry Brown, Peter Rawiri, Johnson Grey. Front row: Adam Kawhe, Tom Rawiri, Martin Taihaere-Wepa, Polly Nepe, Jerry Wepa.
Photo credit: Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5692
Harry Brown’s Band. Back row, from left: Joe Brown (bass), William Kemp (drums). Middle row: John Lewis, John Heremia, July Kehoma; standing Harry Brown. Front row: Sonny Rawiri, Sonny Pineaha, Taite Heremia, David Heremia, Robin Clark (piano).
The Moteo Orchestra, circa 1918. 
Auckland Sun, 28 March 1928.
Moteo marae, 1937. This image, taken by the Steffano Webb Photographic Studio, Christchurch, is thought to be the Kemp family.
Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-019453-G
Waipa Post, 3 May 1928.
Auckland Sun, 23 March 1928.
Auckland Star, 23 March 1928.
Hastings Standard, 23 March 1920.

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