Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mahinarangi Tocker, MNZOM, 1956 - 2008

After a sudden and catastrophic asthma attack that rendered her unconscious with respiratory failure, Mahina died today surrounded by her whanau.
Mahina was of Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Maniapoto, Jewish and Celtic Ancestry. That's a lot of canoes.
The most contemporary of singer/songwriters, for all her popularity and fame she always kept one foot firmly in our euro-centric New Zealand folk scene. From our perspective, she was probably our "most famous" folkie when we chose to claim her. But she was so much more than that.
Mahina was, in a word, generous. She was generous with her music, generous with her humour and life and generous with her honesty about her mental illness. Here are a few of the tributes from the nz-folk list:
Mike. That is sad news indeed. A great musical soul and a great pal has left us. Tony Hillyard

That is indeed a sad day. A tragedy for her friends, for NZmusic, for Maoridom. Sue Harkness.
Heartfelt condolences to Mahinarangi's partner, daughter and whanau. NZ has lost a shining star who brought much joy, deep insight and wonderful music. Mahina leaves behind a lasting legacy that should inspire many people for years to come. Your laughter, generosity and caring will live on in my heart forever. Me te araoha tino mi atu. Remco de Ket.
Thank you Mike, I am stunned to hear that awful news. Mahina did a concert for us in Thames last year, she brought laughter and light and we sat and talked in my garden all the next day and I am so sad now but glad to have spent some good time with this woman of quality, what a loss she will be. Rosie Holmes
This is shocking news Mike. My heart is with all who loved her and her music so much. Please let us know where she will be laid to rest. Judith McNeil
Thanks for all your thoughts; if this list is about anything it is about mutual support and expression. I came upon the news that she was terminally ill rather circuitously, through a friend of a friend, then arrived at my office to hear the news on the radio. More than this I do not know, I don't pretend to any inside knowledge. I think Laura Quinn is closer to the whanau, and will be able to provide those details that they want us to know. For now we'll respect their grief and share our own thoughts here.

I am to present a songwriting seminar next month for the New Zealand Songwriters' Trust in Gore and was to be presenting it with Mahina. I'd been unable to get hold of her to discuss this; and this was not like her - even when she was unwell she would always communicate with me.

Mahina was a long-time friend of my family. My daughter, Siobhan, stayed with her when she was on placement at BFM for her broadcasting course. Bernadette and I saw her last, and so stupidly briefly, at the Auckland Folk Festival where she told us how happy she was to be in employment, something she hadn't done since her nursing days, and a big deal for someone recovering from a mental illness.

It was 24 years ago when we first met Mahina, she was a guest at Whare Flat - her first folk festival. She was a tiny figure then, chain smoker, nervous, agoraphobic. She warmed to us (and we to her) and stayed with us for a further week. She's been back several times since. One time she sat in front of my cassette recorder and went through every page of her songwriting books singing song after song into the mic. I still have that tape somewhere.

When she turned up that first time, I was hugely aware of her politics (Maaori, feminist, lesbian...) and was watching my every p and q, desperate not to make a Political Correctness blunder. I needent have worried. She was the most irreverent, crude, funny woman I've ever come across but taught me so much in the process. There's never been a time I've been with her that we haven't ended up in fits of giggles, like smutty schoolkids. I've been backstage with her many times, my sides hurting with laughter, only to watch her walk out onstage (with something approaching composure) to deliver the most heart-wrenching performances.

She was a spontaneous collaborator too. "I want you to play this one with me, Moroney." When the time comes, I'm called up, I'm capoed up, D-tuned, all ready.. "Oh, we're not doing that one now, " and launches into something she's just made up, or her own inimitable version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, for which there is no right chord! Such was her trust in what passes for my musicianship. She'd hang me out to dry every time. I know I'm not the only one who has had that experience. God bless her.

I am so sad. I don't even know her family or her loved ones, though we talked about them often. Those of you that are closer to them might like to pass on my condolences, sorrow and immense pride at having known her. Mike Moroney

Sad indeed. I first met Mahina – I’m not sure, late 1980s or early 1990s - when she was touring, by bus, with guitar and amp. She played at the Luggate pub. That’s dedication to your art. The next time I met up with her, we shared a room at Whare Flat (with Siobhan Moroney I think). We giggled our way through the festival days. Another encounter was at some outdoor gig sharing a stage in the drizzle at Waikouaiti when I was in the Pog Band. There she was carting her keyboard, singing her songs, doing her thing.

I wasn’t really anywhere on Mahina’s landscape but she always remembered me. I’m struggling with this news of the passing of a generous, brave, funny, talented woman. Arohanui and condolences to Mahina’s family and loved ones. Lindsey Shields.

Mike. What a lovely, perceptive tribute to Mahina. Thank you. Like you and so many others I’ve been lucky to count Mahina as a friend and also had the privilege of being invited to share, briefly, a stage with her; and yes it was the same knee knocking experience that others have reported. I have always been truly astonished at her vocal courage on stage as she reached for soaring, impossible vocal leaps and harmonies and somehow pulled them off. Her musical gift was such that she could take the most outrageous musical risks on stage and get away with it. A mere musical mortal like me struggled (and failed) to keep up. But I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world. Her humour has reduced me to tears every time I’ve met up with her, but I’ve also shared long intimate conversations with her and been shown the other, sensitive soul, that was also Mahina. I too will miss her very much.My heart goes out to her family and close friends. Tony Hillyard.
Hey Mike, that was a lovely bunch of thoughts, I can relate to a lot of them. [personal stuff deleted] Mmmm, incredibly sad, have been playing her Cds all afternoon. Laughing at the time she got me up to sing "harmony" on one of her songs and ended up making me sing the whole thing, completely re writing a song I didn't even know, and she came in with a lovely note on the last word!!! Typical of her stage manner eh. That was the year she came down to Whare Flat with Kath Tait and sang Ruby Tuesday!! Certainly taught me a lot about just going for it and trusting what you already know. Chris Penman.
Oh, what a shock! My heart goes out to Mahina’s daughter and Whanau. When Tony told me, all I could say was “It’s not fair!” What a remarkable woman she was. At the 2006 Auckland festival, we laughed and laughed with her outside our caravan. Then she ‘adopted’ my daughters telling them, “I’m your lesbian Maori auntie” and had them in stitches. She wrote me a lovely email when I was recently in hospital and I am very sad not to have seen her to thank her in person . I am still stunned – her sense of humour and friendship was very special. Thanks for making us feel so loved, Charlene, Rebecca and Siobhan Hillyard.
It is indeed a most tragic day for the whole folk movement and the music scene in New Zealand. Mahina touched everyone with her bubbly personality and her beautiful angelic voice. I only caught up with her at folk festivals, where I became party to her wicked sense of humour. We frequently corresponded off list, for she was genuinely interested in what other people were doing musically. She leaves a void in all of our lives we will miss you "mate" and so will the "missus."Farewell and RIP Mahina we're thinking of you. So Long Mate. Phil Garland
It’s with great sadness to learn of Mahina’s passing. An amazingly gifted woman who lit up the Auckland Acoustic scene in the 80’s and continued to inspire with her great recent albums. Mahina was amazingly generous in her support of other musicians and inspiring to others with her courage, her musicality and social conscience. I am grateful to have been in her orbit and for the warm cross-Tasman email exchanges we sporadically engaged in. Fondly remembered and greatly missed. My heart goes out to her partner, family and friends. Wayne Gillespie
As I sit here, listening to a tribute to Mahina on Radio NZ Nat, playingher songs and hearing that remarkable and individualvoice, I am filled with sadness at how big a hole she will leave in ourlives. All of us that knew her loved her, and rejoiced in her nutty humour,outrageous jokes, and her glee in shocking people with her deliberatelynon-PC quips, designed to wind them up. Some of us will remember a particularly memorable session at an Auckland Festival a couple of years ago, post-concert, sitting outside our caravans, and about 15 people helpless with laughter, and 5 teenagers,jaws dropping with astonishment at the machine-gun-rapid wisecracking, bawdy, outrageous comments! Mahina in her element. Add into the mix that wonderful voice, the brilliance that lifted her into another stratosphere of musical creativity, and the willingness totake such musical risks, makes me feel that we won't see her like again- she was truly a remarkable shining star. Many years earlier at a festival we struck up a great friendship, andmany strange and hilarious emails subsequently buzzed back and forthacross cyberspace - Davy and I both treasured her friendship, empathisedwith her struggles with her personal demons, and feel privileged to callher a friend.To us she was "Tox" (Tocker-Tocks-Tox) and we are going to miss herso much- it still hasn't quite sunk in yet that she has gone.Arohanui, Tox. Libby Stuart
It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of the beautiful woman, friend and musician that Mahina was to many of us. We were privileged to talk with her and hear her perform adlib at Kath Taits' concert at Titirangi only a couple of weeks ago where she was clearly enjoying her world. I will personally miss her smiling, cheeky presence at many different venues. Aspecial arohanui to Irena and Kimai. Shiree Lee.
Too awful. A total star. Mahina was an absolute delight to work with at the 2006Welliesarebest Fest. Clear and yet unassertive about what she needed in order to be able to perform at her best, and did she deliver. Very fond memories of her back-stage antics, her mime behind the compere, Mary Kippenberger, and leadingthe entire marquee in song. Lots of lovely off-list messages from time to time; I'll miss her heaps. Sue Ikin.
Ae. Tetahi whetu maharamatanga ia! Me he tui korokoro. E waiata kohau, enoho ai, e moe. Yes. She is a shining star! With a throat like a tui. Sing for no reason, rest, sleep. Diana Grant-Mackie (An admirer)
A very sad day as you have said - we were all very very fond of Mahina and have wonderful memories of her at the Canterbury Festival where she endeared all who met her. She was a truly inspirational human being and outstanding performer.May she rest in peace. Kathy McDonald
I heard the news from Mike this morning. She was a great friend, irreverent, irrepressible, disrespectful of boundaries, musical or otherwise, startlingly gifted and the most unpredictable stage performer I’ve seen in NZ. She’d have you in fits backstage, and then she’d go out and tear you up. And that voice. She couldn’t stick to a set list and that was one of the things we came to love about Mahina, unless you were playing with her. Like Mike, and probably many of us, I never knew any of her family, just hung out with her at festivals. My sincere condolences to Mahina’s whanau. Slan, Bob McNeill
Sincere condolences to all those close to Mahinarangi. She has touched so many people and left behind a legacy of love and beautiful music. I don't think I know of any musicians who haven't been warmed by her presence. Her smile could light up a cathedral. She seemed to know everyone and yet retained her natural shyness and humility. The collective fellowship of musicians and singers will miss her enormously. Rest in peace, Mahinarangi. Dave Hart
Mike Moroney and others have articulated the senses of shock and loss I feel at learning of Mahinaarangi's death. I think it was Bev Young who pointed out that, as we get older, we experience and expect regular reports of deaths of friends and acquaintances - though I don't think we ever get used to them.
Among the legacy of wonderful music and memories that Mahinaarangi left,is the sharing of her culture. The mad lesbian mongrel mum gave of her Celtic, Jewish and Maori legacy openly and willingly.

In my experience, folk audiences are amongst the most catholic and supportive of all. Yet among the performances of British folksongs, Celticdances, blues, bluegrass, contemporary compositions and world music, I've seen relatively little Maori music. I'm not sure why: in my limited experience, there seems to be a great similarity between the vibe in awharenui and that in the marquee at Whare Flat and other festivals.

Mahinaarangi was one of the few that crossed the divide. Others include Godfrey Pohatu (also gone from us) and Maaka and Karina Laws. I'm verygrateful to these people, all of whom have radiated love/aroha, and been supportive in my bumbling efforts to learn about aspects of Maori culture.

It may be that members of other folk clubs - particularly those in thenorth - have a different experience. In any case, I hope that we cancontinue to encourage and support those who bring Maori and Pacifica culture to our clubs and festivals and, in some way, keep that part of Mahinaarangi's legacy alive. Marcus Turner.

I'm so sad to have to say goodbye to our dear friend Mahinaarangi. I loved her to bits. I recently had some really nice contact with her in Auckland. She turned up at my gig at Titirangi and got up and sang some harmonies with me and Martha Louise. Then I went round to visit her one evening and we had a really goodtime reminiscing about old times and catching up. If I'd known it was going to be the last time I would see her, I would have bundled her up in my arms and refused to let go. Kath Tait.
I first met Mahina through this list… She was my one consistent educator, supporter and friend on the list, and would let me know when I needed to calm down and not take things to heart, and defend me when she thought I needed it. She was discrete… she would never publically humiliate people and was very sensitive to what people needed to hear. She is woven into this little community and that can never be undone. She remembered everyone by name and circumstance, and you didn't need to earn her love, trust and respect as she had bucket-loads of it for everyone.

She was amazing on stage. She was amazing off stage. She was just amazing. The first time I met her face-to-face was at Whare Flat in 2004/05 and that just solidified the friendship that had already started. Then at Wellyfest in the following October (I think) I was standing at the back of the marquee when she sang and it was so magical that you could almost hear the crowd breathe. I believe Over the Rainbow was the clincher.

In the last few years, I have spent quite a few memorable evenings at Mahina's house, playing music and drinking tea, but mainly chatting till far too late. These visits were usually in preparation for gigs but we never got a lot of practice done! I'll never forget the road trip we had over to Thames for a gig last year, everything was fun with Mahina. We arrived just as the gig was supposed to start as we had forgotten the information and after zooming around Thames looking for posters we arrived in the nick of time, and we had a really good weekend.

Mahinarangi was my mentor. We never talked about it like that, because it would have embarrassed her… but we both new it. She taught me about music, how to deal with people when I found them difficult but most of all she taught me about life. I'll never forget her love and friendship and she'll stay in my heart forever. What a special lady. Mahinarangi – arohanui e hoa ma. Laura Quinn

I've been impressed and touched by the tributes I've read on the list and elsewhere, and find myself lost for words myself. What is clear is that we all knew the real Mahina - those qualities of the person and the music were no artificial public construct, they were the magnificent human being who showed you don't have to be perfect to be an inspiration. Ours has been a very sad household these last few days, as Jenny and I have pondered on how lucky we've been to know Mahina. Farewell, farewell. Tony Ricketts
I am deeply saddened and moved today to hear the news of gorgeous Mahinarangi. I feel like crying but i dont. Still seems unreal. My heart sends much warmth to her daughter partner and family though i dont know them to do this personally. I am so so glad I knew her. Wish i could have said goodbye or told her how much she has inspired me and how much I admire her and to thank her for her generosity to my kids, to me, to all sorts of people. Wow, what a huge loss. So many circles of people will be celebrating her, missing her and grieving. What an absolute gem. In sadness and in celebration. Sarita Murdoch
Just wanted to add my voice to the many who know just how much we have lost. We are all richer for having known Mahinarangi, with her sparkling eyes, her mischievous laugh and her extraordinary voice. I didn't get to see her very often, but I will sorely miss knowing that she was out there, courageously sharing her songs, her heart and her lovely smile with the world. Brenda Liddiard
One of the great things about growing older is supposed to be the wisdom we obtain. One of the worst things about growing older is saying goodbye to dear people who pass on out of this world, friends who have touched our hearts and lives in some way. Mahinarangi Tocker was one of these friends
and a chunk of sparkle has left this world with her passing. Everything people have said of her on this list is true. She was all those things and more, generous, funny, a bit rude, proud of her Maori/Jewish/lesbian lifestyle, proud of her loved ones, kind and gentle, fierce and stroppy. Most of all, she was gifted. Gifted with talent, with a way with people, with the ability to see below the surface of situations and of the people around her. Her lovely voice is stilled, but she has left us a wonderful body of work and loads of memories to be going on with. Deepest condolences to her partner, her daughter and all her family. Mahinarangi will be sadly missed by all her friends in the folk music world as well as elsewhere in the music scene. Sing with the angels, lovely girl. Beverley and Alan Young
Mahinarangi knew me! Mahinarangi knew my name. Mahinarangi remembered stuff about me. Mahinarangi had many friends, but still she knew my name. So I count myself lucky to also have known Mahinarangi. To have laughed with her and heard Mahinarangi in full flight playing music. What joy to have known and be known by someone like Mahinarangi as we say in Lancashire "eee they broke the mold when they made that one", that is to say Mahinarangi was a treasure and unique and willl be greatly missed. My heartfelt condolences to Mahinarangi's family. Tony Smyth
Mahina is back at her home now, 64 Glenmarine Parade, Glendine. Her Auckland friends can visit her there. At dawn tomorrow she will go to her marae in Taumaranui (it's on the main trunk line). Kauriki Marae, Ngapuke Road, Taumaranui. Mahina and the whanau will be there from 12pm Thursday 17/4/08. The service will be at 11am on Saturday 19/4/08.
There will be a gathering to sing and tell stories on Friday night, with marae sleeping space. "The family would love to see all who have shared in her life."

The whanua are welcoming all at Mahina’s whare in Glendene. Food and cuppa tea are on hand.

Ngāpuke Road is off Highway 41, between Turangi and Taumaranui, East of Pungapunga. There will be a notice in the paper tomorrow.. Her funeral service and burial will be on Saturday morning. Those wishing to visit her on the marae should gather off the marae and wait to be brought on.

1 comment:

sonja said...

Thanks Mike for adding all these comments here. I was also blessed by Mahina's bubbling spirit, meeting her back in my pre-Dunedin days (late 70's) and we kept contact since.

There's an interview done via email in 2002 here:

and there are some tributes to her here:

'ka aroha'
she whispers when there are tears
'hei aha'
she giggles when we are too full

lines from Mahina's poem "speaking in parent turn".