Alf learned one helluva good trick for dealing with radio interviewers today.
The trick is to follow up on the interviewer’s introduction by introducing yourself in a language only few listeners can understand, and then – this is the cream on top – to sing a song.
If the song is long enough, a politician could go on for a helluva long time.
Ah, but would Radio NZ let him get away with it?
Well, no, probably, not unless he had a bit of Maori blood pumping through his veins.
But if he could lay claim to being indigenous and – even better – had a nice set of tats on his face – Alf suspects he could get away with a great deal.
He was listening to Nine to Noon this morning when some sheila called Heni Collins fronted up to the microphone.
Heni Collins is described as a journalist, researcher and community worker.
She was nicely introduced – Alf thought – by Kathryn Ryan.
Ryan said this Collins bint had written a book about a Maori bloke called Te Rauparaha (a very stroppy Maori bloke, Alf understands), and writing the book about him had been a voyage of discovery for her.
Oh, and her mother was pakeha but Heni primarily identifies as Maori, and that sort of thing.
And just before the book’s publication she got a moko.
Ryan finished this introduction with a cheery “welcome to the programme”.
Alf thought this had been an ample introduction.
But it wasn’t good enough – obviously – for a sheila who primarily identifies as Maori and has a brand-new moko.
And who (Alf suspects) has a strong urge to flaunt her Maoriness.
She said something in te reo, then asked “Would you like me to do a bit of a pepeha?”
A bit bloody presumptuous verging on the downright arrogant.
She didn’t pause for her host’s reply but moved smartly on to say she often likes to start with a very short two-line waiata “just to settle us”.
Just to settle us?
Did Ryan need settling?
Alf was left wondering who was interviewing who.
Heni didn’t give a toss for her host’s permission. She was going to do it anyway, knowing full well her hapless interviewer would be up on a racism rap if she said she would prefer to get on with the questions because time is limited.
Pepeha, of course, are sayings that emphasise a person’s origins and connections with the land and their whakapapa and so on, and – Alf is led to believe – they convey a great deal of meaning and cultural information.
Trouble is, this one conveyed bugger all to Alf – and, he suspects, it conveyed bugger all to the great bulk of the Radio NZ audience – because he and most of them do not speak te reo.
Never mind. Having given us her pepeha, Hene sang her waiata.
And then she got down to business, saying she was not actually a direct descendant of Te Rauparaha. But there were family links.
And her mum is a pakeha, sure. But she has always been drawn to learning the Maori side of her history.
At Patea high school she took part in kapa haka and learned te reo.
At Wanganui Girls College she had a racist experience – she was put in a French class
It seems the teachers thought she was a bit bright and she was fair-haired, and so she must want to learn languages other than te reo.
This seems reasonable, because by her own account she had learned te reo at Patea and it seems pointless having her learn it all over again.
But if this was her idea of racism it was time for Alf to switch over to Sean Plunket. Or Radio Rheema. Or anything.
Alf strongly urges Heni Collins to go have a quiet chat with the respected Maori cleric, Hone Kaa.
This splendid bloke from a highly regarded Ngati Porou family was interviewed at length last Saturday morning.
He didn’t have to punctuate his answers with te reo or warble about his wairua to let us know where he comes from and what makes him tick.
Dunno how many listeners to Nine to Nine can’t understand plain English of the sort spoken by Hone Kaa.
None, he suspects.
There’s a good lesson there for Collins in the art of effective communication without compromising your identity.
But he does congratulate her for showing him how to chew up radio time with a jolly good song.
Eskimo Nell, from memory, is a long song.
And on a good day, having sung the song, Alf would find there’s no time left for questioning.
It now remains for someone on Morning Report or Nine to Noon to ask to interview him, so he can put this lesson to good use.