It transpired - some 45 minutes later - that what Tagaq does is not throat singing as I understand it (look to Tuva and Mongolia for the most accessible illustrations). Her singing is rather similar to "mouth music" - think Bobby McFerrin as a primary example of that. Quite a let-down really.
But what has this to do with liberalism - small "l" or not.
While I was waiting the 40-odd minutes for my dial-up to complete its mission I sat and read the John Roughan op-ed on this topic. I have to say that it was not easy going. Unlike his usual prose it is difficult reading, making for the ol'probligo to go back and re-read several portions to get the sense of what he is trying to say...
How much self-rule is needed for Maori culture to be secure and its perpetuation assured? People who dismiss the Business Roundtable as another group of suits deny themselves a great deal of mental stimulation. It is a one-man think-tank, Roger Kerr, who is a classic liberal on the economy and most other subjects of public interest.
Classic liberals, as distinct from mild socialists who call themselves liberal, regard the individual, not society, as the base measure of what is good, wise and valid in government. They believe, with much support in recent history, that a default setting of individual opportunity rather than enforced equality produces a better society anyway.
But to my mind they have a blind spot. They don't believe in ethnicity. They can't, or don't want to, see that an ethnic identity is part of every individual's range of interests and rights.
Well, yt has been called a "liberal" (and in the same breath "socialist") by more people than I could shake several sticks at. His second para is right to the mark. His third para there is way out left of third base in my world at least.
He picks up on an address given by Noel Pearson (an Aborigine leader and reformist of some note in Australia) to "The Round Table"; this year's memorial address for Sir Ron Trotter.
Pearson believes the improvement of Aboriginal communities lies in more classic liberalism and less social welfare, more personal and family responsibility and less state dependence.
Mindful perhaps that his hosts are much more interested in the first subject than the second, he devoted the bulk of his speech to the better incentives he has built into his people's welfare system and made only a closing reference to the importance of their culture.
Economic liberalism and social democracy's gifts of health and education were both necessary for survival but not sufficient, he said. "Self interest is the engine that starts to drive the vehicle of social and economic progress. But tradition drives the human will to exist."
He said, "Too many Australian conservatives don't understand this crucial point. They believe Aboriginal Australians will be content to survive physically and become prosperous and culturally assimilate into the great global English speaking tradition. We will not."
Roughan then makes the point that the same argument can be applied to NZ - and makes the obvious point that Pearson connected the two intentionally.
The distinction is between "equality" on the basis of homogeneity and the recognition of "ethnic identity". Roughan rightly points out that this is something that should be forefront in our minds this weekend, tomorrow being our equivalent of Independence Day in the US. Oh, there are some, on both sides of the fence, who disagree with that but that is the current law and I as a liberal am happy with the situation. One day is as much like any other.
I can go as far as agreeing that the two major political parties "don't get it". That (for this ol codger) is an unquestionable and uncomfortable truth. The last MP and Minister who I think "got it" was Sir Douglas Graham, a centre rightie of very considerable understanding.
Both sides deeply fear "divisive" aspirations they hear from Maori today. How much self-determination is needed for an indigenous minority to be confident its identity is secure and its perpetuation assured?
National doesn't know, Labour doesn't know, probably the Maori Party doesn't know. But all three know, or accept, that assured Maori representation in places of power is a minimum.
The classic liberal party in Parliament, Act, resists even that. Rodney Hide's strict adherence to individual electoral equality has deprived Maori of two seats on the new Auckland Council for the time being.
That last para was one of the triggers for the ol' brain to back-track and re-read. ACT is a "liberal party"?
The Rhinohide would be very upset to hear that!
For my part I confess that I in truth probably have no more "understanding" than the normal, average pakeha in the street. That despite having spent the greater part of my childhood in closer contact with the Maori community than most middle-class pakeha city dwellers. That is not going to stop me from having a minor carp or two at Roughan's thoughts.
The "don't know" problem is far deeper than Roughan has stated. I assume the credit is due for him having realised that there are many aspects other than those of cultural identity, and political representation that fall out of the prospect of "self-determination" for and by Maori.
The first is one Roughan mentions far too briefly and passes over - the shadow of "separateness"; apartheidt as it was termed in South Africa. The very big difficulty with the idea in South Africa was that apartheidt was imposed by a politically powerful cultural minority on a weakened and weaker majority. The "separateness", rangatiratanga, sought by some Maori is seen as a step back to their cultural roots and to a time when they were the dominant culture in NZ. That was the foundation of both the 1835 and 1840 treaties; the Maori were at that time stronger than the colonists both culturally and militarily.
I can not separate the thought of motives (on both sides) that may drive the positions taken by participants in the raruraru.
On the pakeha side, the accusations of racism against Maori can be "excused" as "a natural cultural and personal conservatism". Yes, it may well be and in that form is exactly the same as the "cultural and personal conservatism" of Maori as was stated by Pearson and quoted by Roughan.
Then I turn to this morning's SST, the "rag" that du Fresne among many others likes to denigrate as a "socialist", the universal epithet for "liberal" when the right whinge is losing a debate.
Front page is one person who very definitely does "get it".
Key said the focus of attention had to change, and while National was pressing on with Treaty settlements and foreshore legislation, they were "grievance-based, backward looking issues" and he wanted to look forward.
"This week 60,000 five-year-olds turned up for school and 12,000 of them will leave unable to read and write, and the bulk of them will be of Maori and Pacific ethnicity. Ultimately, if people are locked into an underclass, that's a bad recipe for all New Zealanders," he said.
Key admitted his words were directed at Harawira, who has spent weeks at odds with his Maori Party colleagues after a column he wrote for the Sunday Star-Times. "Hone can stay in opposition or as a radical if he wants, but he won't actually create things."
Harawira fired back, saying when Key put up, he would shut up. "We want all young Maori children to be able to read, write and count well. So I would say to Key, give us the resources and authority to make that happen and I will shut my mouth for the next three years."
The question is the obvious "How?". The jonkey is talking from his cultural background, Harawira from his own. You can tree from there into all manner of other fields that are related.
Get away from the front page, right down to page A12. No, you won't find it by googling the Stuff website. A "Waitangi Day" article, Richard Habersham recording his visit to a Maori gang retreat in Hawke Bay last weekend, the Otatara Awakening. He used the election of Obama as President as the foundation for his speech.
...Once it became clear that Obama truly was elected by mostly whites, however, gang members immediately questioned Obama's racial authenticity. Their tone switched from admiration to deep suspicion. Many theorised that Obama was merely a puppet elected by crafty whites to push an essentially anti-black agenda
The more important conversation I wanted to have was ... that Maori, like some American blacks, can't continue to stereotype all whites as racist. Maori... should be more aware that many...pakeha...are dedicated to racial equality.... Most crucially many New Zealand citizens have varying degrees of Maori blood.
Perhaps [some] Maori should ask themselves, if Pakeha are so intrinsically racist, how are there so many inter-racial marriages?
It may be helpful for both American blacks and Maori to acknowledge that although our history of oppression is an important aspect of our history, neither race can flourish when their primary political agenda is getting more pakeha concessions.
Why does it take an outsider to draw the line under the blindingly obvious?