Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A True Heritage Instrument

From the nz-folk list, Noelle Jakeman writes:

"I am trying to find out about my randfathers kauri timber elaborately Maori wood carved lap steel guitar with paua shell inlay and all original 8 ivory keys which has been handed down to me. It opens out in the back and the electricals inside are in need of repair and needs new strings however the body is in excellent condition and is a beautifully handcrafted instrument. My mother had bought it for my grandfather back in the 1960's from a music store in Queen Street Auckland called 'Harmony House' which has since closed down and no longer there. I was contemplating selling it and had emailed images of it to vintage guitar dealers and collectors overseas and was surprised to get some very interested responses that it has since prompted my interest to find out the guitars origins and history. I did manage to speak to a local lapsteel guitar enthusiast here in Auckland who had mentioned these guitars popularity back in the 50's and 60's with country and western and Maori showbands and I've been trying to make contact with other NZ music stores in the hopes finding out more about these guitars as well, anyone there able to shed some more light on these guitars for me?"

John Archer wrote:

"That carved Hawaiin guitar a piece of folk history. Haere mai, everything is kapai - Daphne Walker - Sam Freedman - Johnny Cooper and His Range Riders.
"The expert on evaluating and repairing that is Simcha Delft in Otaki.
Eight years ago artist Michael Parekowhai put on a fancy installation in a
posh Auckland gallery with ten beautifully made f-hole inlaid paua
guitars. Maori bro's sat around on beer crates playing the guitars while
Jafa glitterati stood around drinking champagne.
"Parekowhai was commenting on the detribalized de-cultured urban Maori of the 1960s. But Noelle's lap-top is a much more poignant relic of that
time. Once Were Warriors - Paradise Lost."

There were a few other posts imploring Noelle not to sell it, to which she most eloquently replied:

"Greetings all,
Thank you all who have responded to my inquiries about my grandfathers lap steel guitar with some great advice and wonderful information. To perhaps answer some of the questions some of you may of had about my earlier notice and intention to sell the guitar I hope the following will offer you some insight. The guitar was a a gift my Mum had bought new for her Father around the 1960's from a music store in Auckland. It is a well loved family instrument and I've been told that my grandfather and muso granduncles would play this guitar and have jam sessions back in the day.

"It is a well loved family instrument and being Maori myself I am aware of the importance of family taonga and have discussed my intentions to sell the guitar with my Mum who had handed the guitar down to me. The guitar has been in my care for a few years now and I've been able to admire its beautiful craftsmanship and uniqueness however as I travel a lot and have very few personal possessions I would much prefer to have the guitar in someone elses care who'd appreciate and hopefully play it again.

As a recently self employed artist relying totally on the income from my artwork this is the only item I have of value and I know that should I eventually sell it, it would help a lot toward much needed tools and equipment that I need to continue making my work. I believe this to be an honorable purpose for selling the guitar and my Mum has given me her full support as well. I plan to make sure that should it eventually get sold it's to an appropriate person that will appreciate care for and hopefully get it playing again.

It's only been just over the last week that I've made inquiries to various NZ music/guitar stores and sites along with vintage guitar dealers and collectors overseas trying to find out a little more about the history of these guitars and an idea of it's value. So far most of the responses I have received back have been from the US and UK. All have been guitar enthusiasts who've only had positive things to say, and as well as admiring the Maori carvings they've also been really helpful with information about the lap steel guitar as an instrument. I have been involved in the Maori visual arts scene for many years now and am very aware of the exploitation of our Maori taonga and imagery and others ignorance as to the importance it is to our people. However it is a family taonga and I have asked the appropriate person in my whanau to do this, the notices I have sent out has been in no way to exploit or disrespect my Maori culture and I too believe that this is a wonderful piece of our NZ music history and would like to eventually find a good home for it. Regards, Noelle

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