COUNTRY: New Zealand
“Pokarekare Ana” may be New Zealand’s best-known song, and it’s certainly one of the nation’s most beloved. The song originated some time around World War I, perhaps as early as 1912, though its specific authorship is in dispute. Many ascribe it to Māori soldiers who were training for battle, though notable Māori lyricist and political leader Paraire Tomoana also claimed ownerhip. The Folksong.org.nz page about “Pokarekare Ana” provides extensive background about the song, and delves into the question of the song’s origin — did soldiers write it and Tomoana codify it into an “action song” for his performing group in 1917? Did the song develop instead from lyrics that Tomoana himself wrote in 1912, a love poem as part of his courtship of Kuini Raerena? Whatever the song’s origin, its lyrics tell the tale of two people in love, separated by water — in our version, “strong ocean waves” — that will never be strong enough to keep the two apart.