Country band gets standing ovation in South Auckland prison

By Taroi Black

Although it was a one-off appearance in a prison, Harmonic Resonators lead singer Jeremy Hantler hopes it will lead to “longer-lasting relationships” to help inmates feel better about themselves.

He was speaking after a performance by his band at the Māori Focus Wing, Te Whare o te Whaiora, at Auckland South Corrections Facility (Kohuora), which has a tikanga Māori programme for paiāki (a term used for men who are cared for by this kaupapa).

The country music band, which has built made a reputation for singing Māori language covers of many classical waiata, gave a special performance at the prison acknowledging the prisoners' efforts in attending wānanga and Te Reo classes.

“I thought, 'let’s get involved', we’ve had all sorts of hit-ups since we blew up on the internet,” Hantler says.

The programme aims to make tikanga Māori programmes provide a blueprint that supports positive, crime-free lives on release. It is backed by Pūwhakamua facilitators through a partnership between Kohuroa and Tikanga Aroro Charitable Trust, which involves police officers and volunteer social workers who mentor the paiāki.  

It was also a personal moment for Hantler, who came face to face with another inmate to receive an apology for breaking into his house years ago.

He says seeing the programme in action "is a real transition back into society, much more than I had anticipated from watching shows like Orange Is The New Black and other prison shows. We’re doing a little bit better in New Zealand, I think,” he says.

Harmonic Resonators performed in front of more than 60 inmates from Te Whare Whaiora, who responded with a standing ovation, which delighted their cultural services assistant director Kapi Peita.  

“To have the Harmonic Resonators come in and promote and sing te reo, this was a great way to support their kaupapa and their mahi,” Peita says.