Music Musings: Mamaku is Electr-O-rganically Unique

Mamaku Electr-O-rganicallyPhoto Courtesy

Mamaku is known for their hypnotizing vocals, their electronic sound produced through organic methods, and their live shows which have the air of a cabaret-circus.  Comprised of two French-Kiwis, bilingual vocalist Tui Mamaki and multi-instrumentalist/producer Monsieur E, their “electr-O-rganic” music creates a potpourri of emotive experiences whether you are listening to one of their albums or watching them live. The eloquent duo talked with FDRMX about their unique brand of music.

1. FDRMX: You describe your music on your Facebook page as “Wild flavours of French Cabaret flirt with the pulse of Electro-Oriental-Jazz. An intoxicating affair of multi-lingual noir poetry, conjuring Balkan dance floors, spiced with a sprinkling of circus…” Have you ever been to a cabaret/burlesque/circus show? If so, what did you take away from it?

Mamaku: We have never worked with Burlesque but we have collaborated with all sorts of theatrical elements including storytelling, acrobatics, circus performers, belly dancers, Butoh dancers… Costumes have also been an important aspect of our performances. Lately the visual focus has been turned to Live Art projections and we have toned down the musician’s previously colourful costumes to allow visual space for that. The metaphorical/poetic aesthetic has always been an important mode of communication for us.

2. FDRMX: Your music is also described as “Electr-O-rganic.” What is organic about your music?

M: “Organic” refers to the live instruments, the improvisation, the elemental lyrics, and the fact that the electronic aspects of our music are humanized – played live, open to real time influence through hand triggering, modulation, effecting, looping etc. Our drummer also plays a mixture of acoustic drums and electronic samples that Monsieur E has produced, so the line between human and machine is blurred.

3. FDRMX: What would you say it means to be 100% New Zealand musicians?

M: We are not 100% NZ musicians. Our musical heritage is overtly multi-cultural. One could say that anyone creating music in NZ is making NZ music but it is a sore debate as NZ has a broad multi-cultural demographic. Of course uniquely Maori aspects can anchor the music to these islands…

4. FDRMX: You’ve toured all over the globe, including Australia, Korea, Canada and Europe. What do you require to make your tour show a success?

M: The success of a show on tour is in several parts: Artistically, the vision of the promoters must harmonize with our music and get us on the right stage at the right time, for our work to shine and connect with the audiences. Financially, we need a collection of festivals/venues to synchronize dates, to make it viable to tour the band and that the conditions keep the morale of the team up!

5. FDRMX: Our website features your video Mardi Gras. Do you know who belongs to the hand drawing in it?

M: Of course! He is our long time collaborator Lupavision aka Paul Bradley. He tours with us and makes live art projections inspired by our music. You can discover more of his work here.

6. FDRMX: You are highly regarded for your duality.  You have South Pacific mixed with European roots, the “French-Kiwi” aspect, the electronic-organic facet, the bilingual lyrics, etc. What do you do when one aspect starts to pull harder than its counterpart? Is this hard for you to maintain?

M: There is no conflict between these roots. They are old friends. That duality is precisely the source of the inspiration and dialogue. We flow freely with our musical creations and do not try to maintain any particular percentage of one influence or the other. Sometimes we might discuss which language would suit a tune best and go from there. No winners or losers really, it is only a joy.

7. FDRMX: What is the most uncomfortable thing that has happened while on stage?

M: The most uncomfortable moments on stage have been during technical issues with our set-up. We have relied on a laptop computer as part of our show for many years now, and it has given us a few grey hairs. Only a couple of embarrassing crashes to date, fortunately!

8. FDRMX: Your third album, “Twigs of Gold” took five years to make and was released this past January. You’ve shed the “Project” part of “Mamaku Project” and have created a blend of “Groove-hop” to describe your original songs. What direction do you see Mamaku going from here?

M: Interesting question. Both composers, Tui Mamaki and Monsieur E have inspirations to explore other directions, acapella polyphony and techno sounds respectively. Mamaku is really the place where these two diverse artists meet and in a way Mamaku has it’s own rules. Mamaku is currently grooving on Trip Hop, Electro, Jazz and Dub inspirations and is likely to continue to do so.

Let’s hope they continue to explore and push the envelope of world electronica music. Listen to samples of Mamaku and pick up their albums, KareKare, Mal de Terre, Remixes, and their 2014 album Twigs of Gold here! Also check out the Encyclopedia of Music‘s newest Mamaku music video: