Ka Mate - A maori war song breathes new life
Posted on 17 November 2011
During World War I over 2000 Maori soldiers became part of the New Zealand army. Known initially as the Native Contingent, they joined the NZ Mounted Rifles and the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli, then the Somme, Messines and the Rhine. In 1915, news film of the NZ troops was shown in NZ, and in that coverage Maori soldiers could be seen chanting the fearsome haka of the Maori chief Te Rauparaha.
Possibly inspired by the widely seen footage, a composer using the nom de plume Terangi Hikiroa honoured the Maori soldiers with a ‘Maori War Song’ which incorporated the haka as a rousing chorus. After World War I the song was performed widely throughout NZ and recorded and sung by a number of singers including the great Maori bass Ina Te Wiata.
Dame Kiri proposed that the Foundation acquire rights to the music and commission Carl Doy to write an arrangement for orchestra and soloist. This was successfully completed and the song was sung Phillip Rhodes at Dame Kiri’s concert in the Hunter Valley. Kawiti Waetford sang it with Teddy Tahu Rhodes to much acclaim at the Rugby World Cup Gala Concert. Two weeks later Kawiti sought permission to sing the song in the Maori Song section of the 2011 New Zealand Aria competition which he subsequently won.
The Foundation now holds the music and will be making it available on request.
Credit: Historical notes - Max Cryer