Taonga Pūoro - The Sound of Tradition

Sept. 29, 2017, 12:48 p.m.

Taonga pūoro are musical instruments traditionally used by Māori. The origin of taonga pūoro has deep links to Māori-mythology such as the creation story where ‘The Gods sang the Universe into Existence’. Tunes are named Rangi after the Sky Father and rhythms come from the heartbeats of Papa, the Earth Mother. From one of their children, Tawhirimātea, we get the family of wind instruments. From Tangaroa, we get the instruments made from shells. Tānemāhuta, and two of his daughters, Hine-pū-te-Hue and Hine-Raukatauri are the ancestors of a wide range of musical instruments. Some instruments are a union of these families and in today’s world new materials become substitutes for endangered or extinct ones.

After Europeans settled in New Zealand and Christianity spread, many ceremonies at which taonga pūoro were played disappeared. Māori began playing European instruments instead. Taonga pūoro became rare, and younger Māori did not learn to play them.

A hui about taonga pūoro was held in 1991. After this, Hirini Melbourne, Richard Nunns, Brian Flintoff and others began working to revive these instruments. In the 2000s the sounds of taonga pūoro were familiar, and many musicians had used them in their work.

Tags: Taonga Pūoro


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