À la Recherche des Maoris (6): The nostalgic cosmo-musical alibi (Auckland-New Plymouth)

I know Cat Stevens is now Yusuf Al-Islam and he even explained the course of his life from Shaftesbury Avenue as a half Cyprus-Greek half Swedish British kids with “lots of pimples and a handsome elder brother”… not that he encountered much interest from the Kiwi audience when he explained his redemption despite their profound sympathy for the man…yet for me and absolutely everyone in the audience he is first and foremost the sweet, cosmopolitan and poetic voice evocative of our early musical memories…

My visit to New Plymouth was actually at the core of my decision to come to this part of the world.

8 months ago, I confess I had no idea where New Plymouth was located.

I simply received an email from Cat Stevens’s Peace Train tour which I was trying to attend but failed in Zurich, London, Birmingham and New York. It informed me that they were opening Australia and New Zealand tickets and guess what? The only available one was New Plymouth on December 16th…

I booked the ticket without the faintest idea how I was going to explain my trip to anyone with a sound mind but couldn’t care less because a visit to New Zealand had been in the back of my mind for quite a while, especially after editing the issue of Droit et Cultures on Indigenous Languages in the City

I thus clicked and after initially booking a backpackers’ hostel in my haste to secure a room, I opted for another property outside of New Plymouth which I didn’t come to regret.

I discovered in Oakura an absolutely delightful community of laidback people, warm and welcoming to such an extent that I know I will be back!!!

It was really hard to leave Auckland although I admit that thanks to my friend and colleague Will Flavell, every minute was densely occupied;-)

New Zealand roads are absolutely up to their reputation of winding paths throughout gorgeous landscapes and as far as possible from the European or North American concepts of highways…

Add to this the various attractions on the road such as the exquisite Waitomoglow worm caves and you’ll understand how 376 km could take me 8 solid hours!

But the fabulous landscape also accounts for my many stops…

Then the magnificent reward…in a superb park and idyllic weather conditions….

A concert which brought to me nostalgic memories of one of the first singers I listened to as a kid…

Cat Stevens for me has the distinctive taste of childhood, sweetness and…fish and chips! When I listen to My Lady d’Arbanville, I can indeed see myself with my family having a fish and chips in a newspaper by the sea in England!

On D, or rather CS Day, I was up early and ready for a good café and a swim.

I simply followed the nice smell and found François’ High Tide as well as his adorable customers such as

a young urban designer, Erin who was sitting next to me with her toddler and went back home to bring me references of what to see in New Plymouth! It’s thanks to her that I visited the superb Len Lye center and Govett Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth

New Plymouth and Oakura have a lot to offer

and certainly not the least the fabulous mount Taranaki which gives the region its name…

Yet the highlight of this segment was undoubtedly the magnificent concert Cat Stevens offered to his extatic kiwi fans!… but no religious fervor in their very down to earth approach

I truly believe I found my match among these people who adopted me for one evening and who, on a regular basis keep making me feel welcome among them as these photos clearly prove!

Yusuf Al-Islam is an appeased more cosmopolitan than ever poetic voice of our earlier (not younger!!!) years! He is a humble and very simple fellow who paid a tribute to Leonard Bernstein, the Beatles and Jimmy Hendricks in an enchanting manner!

Let me finish with the illuminations of the gorgeous Bowl of Brooklands which Cat Stevens admitted was probably the most exquisite venue he played at!

And my new favorite cottage on earth…Ahu Ahu Beach Villas where I met other splendid people, all of whom attended the same concert like 15,000 other retarded teenagers such as myself 😉 one of the couples on the photo Jos and Lucien are hosts of a fabulous Wellington B&B…!

Kia ora, One World!


Parihaka attack

Maori site on Parihaka

The Plunder of Parihaka by Virginia Winder

Ask that Mountain by Dick Scott

Cat Stevens interview on French TV prior to his Bercy concert (14 April 2011)

Le Monde du 21 Mai 2011

New Plymouth Concert:


  1. It’s terrible you had just one day in Auckland. Btw, a phrase you keep mentioning is ever recurrent: I know I will be back 🙂 and I only hope you will. Good thing you take awesome pictures and if you can’t go back physically, you’ll have all the gorgeous memories and the more gorgeous pictures. Waiting for Fidji Islands! what else?


    • I will be back twice to Auckland…really! As for Oakura you are right, it’s probably wishful thinking yet I am convinced I will be back one day… you know, like the song “we shall overcome…some day”!


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