Learning the art of taonga pūoro

16 January 2017

Te Oko Horoi Totorewa
University of Waikato student Te Oko Horoi Totorewa practices his musical technique with the pukaea – one of the instruments in the taonga pūoro collection.

The traditions and performance techniques of taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) will be taught through two courses at the University of Waikato this year.

Led by taonga pūoro composer and practitioner Horomona Horo, the courses will utilise the instruments from the taonga pūoro collection which was formally introduced to the University in February 2016. With the financial support of Ian Graham and Agi Lehár-Graham, the collection was commissioned by the University’s Conservatorium of Music from master carver of taonga pūoro Brian Flintoff.

For those with an interest in learning about this unique art form, Waikato’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences and Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Studies will conjointly offer ‘TIKA241 Te Ao Oro: The Māori World of Sound’ and ‘TIKA341 Ngā Taonga Pūoro Mai I Te Ao Tawhito Ki Te Ao Hou: Ancient and Contemporary Music of the Māori’ in the 2017 A and B semesters.

“These papers offer a wonderfully warm, open and welcoming pathway into the world of traditional Māori music,” says Associate Professor Martin Lodge of the University’s Conservatorium of Music.

“They are suited to anyone who is interested in this unique world of sound, regardless of background. No previous musical or cultural knowledge is needed, just an open heart, an inquiring attitude and a willingness to contribute,” he says.

With strong practical elements in both courses, students will have the opportunity to make their own instruments, learn the history and create their own compositions.

The courses will be taught in English, with Māori terminology introduced as needed. They may count towards the Tikanga Māori major or minor within the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Social Sciences and students enrolled in the Bachelor of Music may take these papers towards the ‘Māori Musical Instruments in Traditional and Contemporary Contexts’ stream. They can also be taken as interest papers and are open to all students. 

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"Kei a te po te timatatanga o te waiatatanga mai a te atua, ko te ao, ko te ao marama, ko te ao turoa"

"It was in the night where the gods sang the world into existence, from the world of light, into the world of music"