Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Music Of The New Zealand Maori

Welcome Everybody!

I would like to talk a little about the
music and, in particular, the traditional
music of the New Zealand Maori.

Certainly, the music of the New Zealand
Maori, ranging from diva Dame Kiri Te
Kanawa to traditional choirs and popular
music stars, have gained an appreciative
worldwide audience.

The New Zealand Maori are, of course,
Polynesian, and have lived in New
Zealand ever since approximately the
eleventh century A.D. They refer to their
homeland as Aotearoa, The Land of the
Long White Cloud. In terms of the origins
of the Maori, modern evidence, including
DNA analysis, confirms the opinion that
modern man, in the form of Homo sapiens,
first came out of Africa as early as 160,000
years ago. Of the pioneers who moved
across Asia, one group moved south-east
down through the Indo-Malaysian archipelago,
crossing over into Australia during a brief
window of opportunity 65,000 years ago
when water levels dropped. They also
reached Papua, also possibly as early as
65,000 years ago, eventually moving from
there across the Pacific.

Archaeologists believe that Polynesian people
came from a small central group that spoke the
Austronesian language on the island of Taiwan.
Genetic studies have also now indicated that
the ancestors of this group were the sailors
of the great canoes who started out on their
journey further back along the trail in eastern

Researchers in New Zealand have also recently
concluded that the male and female ancestors
of Maori people came from different places.
The team, from Victoria University in Wellington,
New Zealand, have found that Maori women
have genetic markers that suggest their ancestors
came from mainland South-east Asia, probably
about 6,000 years ago. As they travelled south
from island to island, it appears that Melanesian
men joined the men and women on the boat,
with a small group of people eventually arriving
in New Zealand via the Polynesian triangle,
about 1,000 years ago.

Indeed, the word Polynesia, which means many
islands, comes from the Greek words 'poly'
which means 'many' and 'nesos' which means
'island'. Polynesia stretches in a huge triangle
from New Zealand in the southwest to Easter
Island, 8,000 kilometres away in the southeast
and up to Hawaii at its northern point. The
Polynesian people are lighter skinned and are
generally taller than the Melanesian and
Micronesian people.

The Maori view of creation in which all nature
was seen as a great kinship tracing its origins
back to a single pair, the Sky Father and the
Earth Mother, was a conception which they
brought with them when they came from
Central Polynesia about 1,000 A.D.
Furthermore, this belief in a primal pair, as
well as the metaphysical idea of an original
Void or Darkness, seems to be part of the
stock of ideas which the ancestors of the
Polynesians brought with them from the
west, from the Asian mainland, and which
they carried with them as they dispersed
into marginal Polynesia. The resultant shift
in names and attributes, and the elaboration
of themes which occurred throughout the
area certainly cannot obscure this underlying
unity of ideas.

The name 'Maori' is derived from Ma-Uri,
which means 'Children of Heaven'. Their
nickname is 'Vikings of the Sunrise', because
they are fierce warriors. Originally, they were
hunters, but soon became peasants, living off
agriculture. Today, approximately 300.000
Maori are mainly living in the cities, but they
remain closely connected to their tribes. Their
tribal groupings are derived from the people
of each canoe, settling New Zealand in the
early times.

Traditional Maori villages are fortified with
an open space in the centre, called the 'marae',
on which the meeting house or 'whare hui' is
located. This building represents the symbolic
body of the ancestor. Around the fort sites,
a palisade with watch tower is built. In these
watch towers are suspended alarm gongs
comprising huge wooden plates referred to
as 'pahu'.

The Maori religion is closely related to nature
and to the ancestors. Nature itself is considered
a living being and thus the interaction between
man and nature is bound by prescripts and
rituals. The notion 'tapu' (sacred), from which
the word 'tabu' is deduced, is still a central
notion in contemporary Maori society.

Tiki are anthropomorphic ornaments representing
spiritual beings. Many times they have some kind
of deformation, like only 3 fingers and they can
be both positive and negative towards mankind.

Much of the Maori religion remains intact and many
rituals associated with traditional visual arts and
traditional music are still carried out with strong
ties between songs and magic still remaining.
Traditional Maori music, in the main, only used
aerophones and idiophones to support the vocals.

Aerophones were mainly of the following types.
Koauau, which can be made out of different
materials: wood or even a human bone. It is a
straight blown flute, blown under an angle, 12 to
15 cm long and with a bore of 1 to 2 cm. When
the instrument isn't played, it's worn around the
neck. It has 3 finger holes.

Porutu is a flute similar to the koauau but
longer: it measures between 30 and 40 cm.
There is doubt about wether it is an original
Maori instrument or an imitation of the western
flute. Nguru is a small instrument (8 to 10 cm).
It is curved at one end, because originally this
flute was made out of a whale tooth. It can also
be made out of wood, stone, clay. It has one
open end like the koauau and one small
opening at the curved end. It has 2 to 4 finger

Whio is a bone flute made out of an albatross
bone. The instrument is 15 cm long, has a
diameter of 1.5 cm and 4 finger holes. The
instrument was played by men in order to
attract the attention of women they longed for.
Puukaaea is a wooden war trumpet, made out
of two pieces of wood cut lengthwise and
hollowed out. Both pieces are again assembled
and kept in place by fibres or ropes. The length
varies between 1m and 2,5 meter. At one side
there is a sculptured wooden mouthpiece and
the other side of the instrument is broader
and resembles an open mouth. Inside tohu are
sculptures, representing the human tonsils and
uvula. The puukaaea could be used during the
war as a megaphone or as an alarm instrument.

Puutoorino, which is often referred to as a
bugle-flute instead of trumpet, because the
instrument could also be used as a flute, but
originally it was a trumpet. It is about 30 to
60 cm long and is made as the puukaaea out
of two pieces of wood, but here widest in the
middle and more narrow at both end sides.
In the middle are sound holes, mostly in the
shape of an eight, are made as the open
mouth of a sculptured face. Near the
mouthpiece, another face is carved, or a
tiki (men/spirit) or a manaia (men/bird). The
player placed his hand over the sound hole
in order to change the tones of the instrument.
Originally, this instrument was mainly used to
announce the coming and arrival of a tribal

Teetere are flax trumpets simply made by
winding a leaf to a horn shape. It was
probably a children's toy, but could also be
used to announce one's arrival in the village.
Non-blown aerophones include the
Puurorohuu which is a bullroarer made out
of a piece of wood. By swinging the bullroarer
around, a roaring sound is produced which it
was thought would bring rain. The idiophone
used comprised the following. Pahuu are
wooden gongs: flat slabs of resonant wood,
which were horizontally suspended above a
platform in the watch tower of the palisade
around the fortified village. It was hit in
case of danger, but also used to call the men
to go to war.Some tribes, living in the woods,
carved their war pahuu out of a hollow tree.
The wooden slab was sometimes cut away
and separated from the tree or sometimes it
remained a fixed part of the tree.

Paakuru is an instrument, which is held
between the teeth of the player, can be
compared to a jew's-harp. It comprised a
simple piece of wood of 40 to 50 cm long,
2 to 5 cm broad and 1 cm thick, struck by
a little wooden stick. The sound is changed
by the position of the mouth and the
movements of the lips. Nowadays, the
paakuru knows a revival as a whalebone
paakuru. Rooria are similar to paakuru, but
smaller: only 7 to 10 cm long. Maori lovers
use it for intimate conversations. Finally,
Tokere are whalebones used as clappers.

The traditional vocal music can be divided
in two categories: the recitatives and the
songs. The recitatives have no fixed pitch
organisation and the tempo is much higher
than the song's tempo. Among the recitatives
is a welcome ceremony known as Powhiri.
This welcome ceremony is a mixed form.
Men shout fiercely, whilst women sing in a
melodic way. The Powhiri often starts with
the men standing in front of the women. The
men make clear they are ready for a battle
by shouting, menacing with their weapons
and grimacing. After a while, the women
gently come to the front, singing and carrying
green leaves. The men kneeled down on one
knee and put their weapons on the floor.
Most of the time a Powhiri ends with a haka
(men song) without weapons.

Haka are shouted speeches by men, combined
with a fierce dance. Haka Taparahi are
performed without weapons and they can give
expression to different emotions depending
on the situation for which they are performed.
Haka Peruperu are performed with weapons
and associated with war dances.

Another form of recitative is known as Ngeri
and is used to annihilate any form of tapu.
Other forms of recitatives are Karakia which
are quick incantations and spells.They are used
during daily life by both adults and children, but
also during rituals. The ritual karakia is difficult
and dangerous to execute, because a mistake
during the performance will attract bad luck,
illness and even the death of the reciter. For
very important karakia, two priest reciters
are needed in order to alternate the breathing
pause, because even the slightest moment of
silence could result into disaster. Paatere are
mainly performed in group and composed by
women in answer to gossip. The texts of
paatere consist merely out of summing up
of the kinship connections of the author.
Kaioraora are like paatere answers to
gossip but with a rude, offensive text

The second form of traditional music are
Songs and the Sung Poetry, also called Nga
Moteatea, which often consist mainly of
laments, but sometimes also consist of love
songs and lullabies. Traditionally, sung
poetry of this form was accompanied by a
koauau flute.

Traditional songs comprise the following
forms: Poi, which are songs accompanied
by a form of dance in which women hit their
body rhythmically with one or two mainly
cotton balls attached to the end of a string.
Oriori, which are songs composed to teach
children of high rank about their special
descent and history.Pao are songs originating
out of a kind of instant-composing: the
composer sings the first couplet and is then
repeated by the chorus, and so on. These
are songs of local interest. They can be
funny or serious.Waiata is the most common
category of Maori songs and comprise
laments about different topics. Traditionally,
waiata are sung in groups and in unisono.

Waiata tangi are laments for the dead. The
word 'tangi' means 'weeping'. This form is
mainly composed by women. During burial
ceremonies, women were expected to show
signs of deep grief, for example, by
wounding their faces with sharp stones.
Sometimes, these waiata were very personal,
telling about the composer's emotions and
feelings towards the dead. When composed
by men, the waiata tangi can also instruct us
about the warrior qualities of the dead person.
They can also, for example, allude to most of
the calamities that can befall mankind.

Finally, waiata ahore are love songs, and
waiata whaiaaipo are songs for the beloved
one. They are often still laments and tell
us about all the misery that a love affair
can provoke.

There is little doubt that Maori music, like
that of other Pacific Islanders, has changed
under the influence of western culture. In
this respect, it is most pleasing to see, next
to the commercialisation, a strong revival of
the traditional Maori music, along with a
growing pride in the beautiful traditional
Maori culture.



Papua New Guinea Stringbands CD Songs
Of The Volcano is a fascinating, raw and
unique sound from five villages in East New
Britain with five different Tolai stringbands..
Papua New Guinea is home to a huge
indigenous population speaking more than
800 languages, it laid largely undiscovered
until the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, and hence is one of the last
places on the planet to have guitars arrive
from afar. Rabaul, in Papua New Guinea's
far flung province of East New Britain, is a
town which has had its share of hard times.
In the same century, it has been destroyed
twice by massive volcanic cataclysms and
once by a devastating war imposed on it
by outsiders. The Tolai people of Rabaul
have suffered greatly from these natural
and manmade disasters and yet, somehow,
have always managed to bounce back and
keep their spirits high. One of the main
contributing factors to their capacity for
optimism is their music, an energetic and
unique blend of voices and instruments
performed by the community's local

The music carries a fragile innocence
and beauty reminiscent of what guitar
music may have sounded like, in Hawaii
in 1860, or Mexico in 1830. Most music
travelled throughout the Pacific Ocean
on boats, with sailors leaving behind
instruments and ideas to then percolate
in isolation. Hence, the music on this
album will seem at once exotic, yet
somehow familiar.Even today, there is
still very little mass media penetration
in Papua New Guinea, though that is
changing, and thus makes the
preservation of the traditional music
even more necessary. Material from
this CD is being proudly featured on
our Pacific Islands Radio, and it is
highly recommended for those who
enjoy vibrant and compelling guitar
music performed from the heart.

That's all for now my friends. I wish
you a wonderful day with a prosperous
and happy weekend. See you all later.

For further information, please check out my four Domains:

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