(While you’re learning about the music of New Zealand you may want to browse through the New Zealand Folksong Website that offers a wonderful collection of MÄori folk songs, complete with recordings and lyrics.)
Before Europeans landed in Aotearoa, much MÄori vocal music was similar to that found elsewhere in Polynesia–energized chanting, often done without instrumental accompaniment and with the vocalists singing either solo or in unison. Before Western colonial contact, MÄori priests were exclusively allowed to play instruments in public because of musical instruments’ power as a form of communication between humans and gods. (Non-priests played instruments, but in private or even in secret.) There were several kinds of flutes such as the bird-bone KÅauau and the flute/horn PÅ«tÅrino, conch shell trumpets like the Putatara and spinning instruments like the whirling, whirring Purerehua. When Missionaries arrived they brought church-based harmonies and Western instruments; as a result, most MÄoriinstruments were “lost” and have only a experienced a revival since the 1980s. (Learn about Maori instruments on the Tamok Studio and MÄori Arts Gallery | Watch a video of MÄori instruments in play)
While “haka” is the generic term for MÄori dance, today’s most identifiable haka is a ferocious chant in which dancers pound on their bodies, using themselves as percussion. According to Haka.co.nz’s introduction to haka (note: there is just a bit of grown-ups only information in this link without the kids), “also essential to the art of haka are pukana (dilating of the eyes), whetero (protruding of the tongue performed by men only), ngangahu (similar to pukana, performed by both sexes), and potete (the closing of the eyes at different points in the dance, performed by the women only).”
The best-known haka is “Ka Mate.” Composed in 1820 by a chief named Te Rauparaha, “Ka Mate” is a rousing chant adopted by New Zealand’s deeply beloved national rugby team, the All Blacks. Watch the All Blacks haka. Amazing. (Watch the national team of Tonga respond with a haka of their own.) Of course the All Blacks don’t have exclusive rights to the haka. Watch this extraordinary haka, performed for a graduation ceremony on the North Island. (Our chant, “Te Waka,” is a MÄori haka. Learn about ‘Te Waka”
MAORI ACTION SONGS:
New Zealand’s “action song,” now generally accepted as the country’s primary form of cultural dance, didn’t really exist until the early 20th century when a predominant MÄori parliamentarian, Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata, helped developed them as a way to celebrate and promote MÄori culture. “Kapa haka,” groups that perform action songs, have become popular in New Zealand. Watch YouTube videos of a few MÄori action songs and you’ll understand why. 1 | 2 | 3.
NEW ZEALAND POP:
New Zealand may celebrate its MÄori folk music roots locally, but it’s also incredibly proud of its English-language pop songs that have made international waves. Since the first international hit recorded in New Zealand–“Blue Smoke” by Pixie Williams“–Kiwi musicians have been regular players on the global pop music scene. The ’80s and ’90s were banner decades for New Zealand’s pop musicians, with Kiwi Neil Finn, fronting Crowded House–a band that actually formed in Australia, but no matter–churning out a number of international hits like “Don’t Dream, It’s Over” and “Something So Strong.” The 1995 single “How Bizarre” by OMC sold almost four million records, making it New Zealand’s greatest selling song of all time to that point. With all these hits and no doubt more to come, there must be way more than even NZHistory.net’s suggested “31 reasons to love New Zealand music.”
In class we’re going to listen to:
— Blam Blam Blam “There is No Depression in New Zealand” The rock band Blam Blam Blam was one of early ’80s New Zealand’s most popular and controversial acts. Their hit, “There is No Depression in New Zealand,” satirized the attitude of polarizing prime minister Rob Muldoon who many believed was glossing over the needs of the population. In the early ’90s the song experienced a substantial revival when a “joke” political party, The McGillicuddy Serious Party, ran adopted it as their national anthem. Blam Blam Blam disbanded in 1984, though they reunited for some concerts in 2003. The McGillicuddy Serious Party disbanded in 1999, though they re-emerge every so often to do battle. (The aliens in this video are McGillicuddies).
Watch the video for “There is No Depression in New Zealand” on YouTube | The history of “There is No Depression in New Zealand” as it intertwines with the McGillicuddies. | Read the McGillicuddies’ list of policies on Wikipedia. An example: “The diversion of all of NZ aluminium production away from building US military aircraft and missiles to build giant space-mirrors to melt the polar icecaps and destroy all of the foolish greed-worshipping cities of man in one stroke, thereby returning man to the sea, which he should never have left in the first place ” | Watch the McGillicuddies try to invade Wellington in 1986, only to be thwarted by Alf’s Imperial Army. Alf’s army starts the video and the McGillicuddies come on at 2:22. The actual fake battle begins at 4:16
— The Patea Maori Club, “Poi E”
In 1983 a duo composed of linguist Ngoi Pewhairangi and musician Dalvanius Prime wrote “Poi E” as a way to inspire cultural pride among MÄori youth. Prime couldn’t find a record label to release the song so he formed his own label and worked with the MÄori performing group, the Patea Maori Club to sing it. In 1984 a TV news story about
the song introduced the population to it and it became an instant hit among MÄori and non-MÄori alike. It even became popular in the UK, where the Patea Maori Club toured to share the vibrant MÄori culture.