Taonga Pūoro

Taonga Pūoro, or singing treasures, are the traditional instruments of Māori. I feel deeply fortunate to have been touched by this ancient tradition.

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Taonga Pūoro

Taonga Pūoro, or singing treasures, are the traditional instruments of Māori. I feel deeply fortunate to have been touched by this ancient tradition.

 He Karakia

E Ranginui, kōrua ko Papatūānuku
Whakarongo ki te reo o ngā atua!
E waiatatia e rātou ki te ao
Kei a te Pō te timatatanga o te waiatatanga mai a te Atua

Ko te Ao, ko te Ao mārama, ko te Au tūroa
Tiakina te reo a Hine Raukatauri
Whakamihia tāna pūoro ātaahua
Tiakina te reo a Tangaroa
Whakamihia tāna pūoro kaha
Tiakina te reo a Tāwhirimatea
Whakamihia tāna pūoro mahuru
Tiakina te reo a Hine Pu Te Hue
Whakamihia tāna pūoro rongo
Whakarongo ki te reo o te atua!
Ki te honore i ngā tūpuna
Tiakina

Tiakina
Tīhei mauriora

 He Karakia

E Ranginui, kōrua ko Papatūānuku
Whakarongo ki te reo o ngā atua!
E waiatatia e rātou ki te ao
Kei a te Pō te timatatanga
o te waiatatanga mai a te Atua

Ko te Ao, ko te Ao mārama, ko te Au tūroa
Tiakina te reo a Hine Raukatauri
Whakamihia tāna pūoro ātaahua
Tiakina te reo a Tangaroa
Whakamihia tāna pūoro kaha
Tiakina te reo a Tāwhirimatea
Whakamihia tāna pūoro mahuru
Tiakina te reo a Hine Pu Te Hue
Whakamihia tāna pūoro rongo
Whakarongo ki te reo o te atua!
Ki te honore i ngā tūpuna
Tiakina

Tiakina
Tīhei mauriora

Tōku Ara

I first came across the almost-lost tradition of taonga pūoro when I moved to Whakatū in 1987 and met Richard Nunns. I invited Richard to give a wānanga at the Nelson School of Music and shortly after that I met master carver Brian Flintoff. Little did I realise then just how important their revival work was with Hirini Melbourne and others as part of the Hau Manu group.

I made my first kōauau from sheep bone and, like many, struggled to encourage it to sing, but over time we made better friends and I was able to play more confidently. I first introduced taonga pūoro into my school programmes in 1995 and this continued through until 2017, over which time I gradually featured more instruments.

What I found interesting is that very few of the students were aware of the existence of the instruments. Some may have heard them on television or in film, but few had seen them in the flesh. It never ceased to amaze me that the instruments often had a profound effect on the children - they found them awesome!

I remember performing a concert at Kereru School, a small country school in the Hawkes Bay, where a young student who was severely hearing and mentally impaired responded most enthusiastically to the kōauau. The teachers said they had never seen her respond this way to anything before.

I have had a long association with Richard Nunns who was regarded as being a leading exponent on the instruments. We were involved in a number of collaborative projects, Richard playing taonga pūoro with myself playing traditional Irish instruments. I learnt by listening and watching the master with occasional tips and advice. Unfortunately it was when Richard was becoming infirm and I had huge commitments with renovating the Nelson School of Music that he commenced a more formal process of teaching the instruments.

Sadly I only met Hirini one or two times. How I would have liked to have sat and learnt at the knee of that master!

I would like to acknowledge the strong support I have been given from Aroha Yates-Smith, Ariana Tikao, Holly Tikao-Weir and Solomon Rahui on my journey. I also want to deeply thank Brian Flintoff for his wonderful taonga and support, plus the opportunities that he and Robin Slow have given me to spread my wings with the taonga.

He manu hou ahau, he pī ka rere

Ngā Taonga Pūoro

The principal resource to learn about taonga pūoro is Brian Flintoff's book 'Taonga Pūoro - Signing Treasures' which is available from his website here.

As we present more workshops on the taonga, I'm happy to share resources that we develop on these pages in due course.

In the meantime I have found the following to be of great value:

He Ara Pūoro is a collaboration between Richard Nunns and Radio New Zealand where you can hear many of the instruments played by the master: He Are Pūoro

These pages on the Victoria  University of Wellington website are interesting in that they give some historical context to the instruments: Victoria University

I'll post up more links as they come to hand.

Wānanga

It must have been around the year 2000 when I called Hirini Melbourne to talk about a new programme I was writing with a view to touring it around schools. I wanted to ask if it was appropriate to use taonga pūoro in the show. His reply was a wero! He said that anything I could do to spread the word about the taonga was good.

I have been fortunate and now feel I have some facility on the instruments, learnt mainly from Richard.

Consequently I am now enthusiastic to follow Hirini's direction and spread what little knowledge I have to whoever wishes to learn.

Please contact me if I can be of help to you.