Waiata Māori: The Sheet Music

A DigitalNZ Story by Michael Brown

Arrangements of waiata for piano and voice

waiata, piano

Sheet music of Māori waiata with piano accompaniment were a distinctive aspect of New Zealand music publishing in the early decades of the 1900s, an era when pianos were very popular. Many of these waiata are still performed today and include pieces by Māori composers such as:

  • Paraire Tomoana (Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti, Ngāti Kahungungu, 1868-1946)
  • Fanny Rose Howie a.k.a. Princess Te Rangi Pai ( Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, 1868-1916)
  • Erima Maewa Kaihau a.k.a. Louisa Flavell (Ngāpuhi, 1879-1941)
  • Walter Smith (Ngāti Kahungunu, 1883-1963) 

The waiata usually featured Western-style melodies and were printed with English translations in addition to the Māori lyrics. Some were collected together into sets or albums. Among the Pākehā who were involved in collecting, arranging and popularising the waiata were the Auckland organist and choirmaster James Phillpot (1861-1937), who used the pseudonym Hemi Piripata. Another was composer Alfred Hill (1869-1960), who wrote 'Waiata poi' and other pieces that became very well-known.

This Digital NZ story created for the 2019 National Library exhibition Pūkana! Moments in Māori Performance features a selection of digitised sheet music published from the 1900s to 1940s. Following the links below will take you to the item record, then to the National Library website, where clicking on "See this item online" will allow you to download PDFs, to be studied, printed and performed.

More items will be added to this collection as they are digitised.

More DigitalNZ stories relating to Pūkana

Waiata Māori: Early Recordings