How did we get to the point where the guitar plays a central role in modern Maori performance? What other instruments were used as part of performances?
Kia kawea tātou e te rēhia
Let us be taken by the spirit of joy, of entertainment
This whakataukī (saying) indicates that performance-based entertainment was central to Māori society long before the first arrival of Europeans. Whare tapere was the name given to sites used for entertainments such as storytelling, dance, music and games. Sometimes this name referred to a special building, but more often a suitable outdoor location such as the base of a notable tree was designated a whare tapere.
Source: Mark Derby and Briar Grace-Smith, 'Māori theatre - te whare tapere hōu - Origins of Māori theatre', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 May 2019)
After European settlement, a number of factors led to the near-demise of use of taonga puoro (traditional Māori instruments). Many of the ceremonies at which they were played disappeared with the introduction of Christianity. Māori themselves put aside their traditional instruments in favour of introduced versions such as the jew’s harp, which replaced its equivalent, the rōria. Māori musicians were swift and adept at adopting a wide range of new instruments including banjos, pianos, bagpipes, brass-band instruments and, perhaps most popular of all, the guitar.
Source: Brian Flintoff, 'Māori musical instruments – taonga puoro - Decline and revival of Māori instruments', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 May 2019)
In the 1950s and 1960s action songs were made popular by Māori showbands and by other performers such as the Howard Morrison Quartet. During the Māori cultural renaissance, new clubs and culture groups were set up, and original songwriting was encouraged. Songwriters and singers such as Prince Tui Teka, Moana Maniapoto and Dalvanius Prime developed a Māori-influenced style, and used the Māori language. Ngoi Pēwhairangi wrote the hit songs ‘E ipo’ and ‘Poi e’.
Early composers and performers often used the piano and violin. The guitar became dominant in the mid-20th century, and in the later 20th century taonga puoro (traditional Māori instruments) were revived.
Source: Piri Sciascia and Paul Meredith, 'Waiata hōu – contemporary Māori songs', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 May 2019)
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