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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Cook Island drumming

By | Drums, Oceania | 2 Comments

It just happened that one of the exponents of Cook Island drumming was doing a workshop that I was able to sit in on. Dr. Jon Tikivanotau Jonassen, a Rarotongan by birth, who has toured internationally with the famous Betela Dance Troupe. He has developed a unique way of notating the rhythms from the Cook Islands. It was wonderful to meet him and hear his perspective on drumming Pacific style. Below is an example of the unique Cook Island playing.

Check out more pictures/video …… Read More

Cook Island story

By | Oceania | No Comments

Whilst wandering in the Cook Islands – I came across a local paper, advertising that one of the masters of Cook Island drumming (now based in Hawai’i) was going to be giving a lecture. Fortunately I was allowed to sit in on the workshop and got to know some of the attendees. One drummer, Mark was a government worker and he invited me to his local drum and dance group rehearsals.

He was a mine of information about the islands and how things were slowly changing due to the influx of more and more tourists. One such story explained the cultural mindset of his people. When tourism grew the governmental leaders of all the islands came together to discuss the possibilities of supplying Raratonga (the main tourist destination) with food from the outlying islands. Extra supplies were being flown in from New Zealand, Australia and America, which was putting all the prices up for the local people. If they could supply the needs in house, then prices could be kept at a reasonable price for the He joked that you could wake up each day, shoot a hog and just eat one leg and there would still be plenty for everyone. Apparently the islands were blessed with plenty of fruits, fish and wild boar. There was one proviso if this was to work, no island time, supplies had to be provided daily and on time! Well the leaders went back to their people and for a couple of weeks everything seemed to be going fine. However the third week everything slowed down and the fourth week it stopped all together. The leaders were called back for a meeting. When asked what was happening, one leader replied “We have one question – what are we going to do with all this extra money?” It had taken them just 4 weeks to realize that they had enough. They had everything they needed for a good life and didn’t need anything else.


By | Wind | No Comments

In the age of computer generated music and technology, it is exciting to hear about the resurgence of traditional instruments. The vivo, a high pitched nose flute, which was widely used in pre-missionary Polynesia, is having a bit of a revival. The Ministry of Cultural Development in the Cook Islands has organised workshops and had 1500 vivo made on the island of Mangaia, where the bamboo used for the instrument grows naturally.

Many of the flutes from Pacific islands are nose blown rather than mouth blown, which fascinated me. Why was this, I asked myself? One story I heard was that the breath out of your nose is thought of as being pure whilst often breath from the mouth can bring forth obscenities, such as in speech. Therefore making flute music with air produced from the nose was symbolically thought to have the purest intentions.

Cook Islands

By | Oceania | No Comments

It’s staggering to realise the vastness of the area where we have come to. 15 small islands, yet situated in 2 million square miles of Pacific ocean – yes, can you believe it, an area about the size of western Europe.

The Northern group includes Manihiki, Rakahanga, Penrhyn, Puka puka, Nassau and Suwarrow. The Southern group includes Aitutaki, Mangaia, Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston ( about 50 people live here, all Marsters, descended from William Marsters and his three Polynesian wives), Manua, Takutea and Raratonga. Here on Rarotonga we rode on bikes around the whole island …. it’s only 32km!

The sound of their accapela music is absolutely beautiful and very unique. This is not a great recording but hopefully it will stimulate you to hunt for some original recordings in this style.

Cook Islands choir by Voicesfromthenations

Whale Rider

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Whale rider

There have been two films (that reached the UK) that have given us a little insight into Maori culture in the last 20 years, “Once were warriors” and “Whale rider”. So it was fascinating to see the small rural community where whale rider was filmed. Check out some pictures of the area where it was filmed ….. Read More


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There have been some significant changes for the Maori people since I was here 12 years ago. It was only 50 years ago that they were unable to speak their own language in schools without being reprimanded. Now they have their own Te Reo (Maori language TV channel), the use of their language is on the rise and there are Maori members of government. Sadly, many of New Zealand churches still hang on to imported styles of music (Australia, States, etc), unaware, it seems, of the treasures it has within its own borders. A few contemporary musicians and artists are mixing the languages and bringing traditional and modern expressions together. Check out CD’s by Whirimako Black (of 1 Giant Leap fame), Fat Freddys Drop, Te Waka, The Little Bushmen and the video above of Moana and the Tribe.

Want to learn more about the music of the Maori click here

Te Marae

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Many people groups have a long history of oral tradition, learning and understanding is passed down through the generations. In New Zealand, the marae (a gathering place) has been the focal point for Maoridom for many centuries.  Not just a place for people to meet but a family home to the generations that have gone before.

“We, the Maori, need our marae so that we may pray to God; rise tall in oratory; weep for our dead; house our guests; have our meetings, feasts, weddings and reunions; and sing and dance.” Hiwi and Pat Tauroa.

Remember the year 200 sunrise?

By | Oceania | No Comments

Gisborne, on the East coast of New Zealand; you may remember it was the world’s focus for the beginning of the new millennium, 2000. What you may not know …. the sunrise captured by TV crews and beamed all around the world was recorded the day before!!! On the big day, it was cloudy, broadcasting at its best or worst … your choice?

Meeting Nievans

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We have travelled south to Te Puke and staying in a small community with David and Mary Charrington (yes, related to the brewers in England). They are helping with the pastoral care of 400 Nievans. (people born of Vanuatu). This Pacific archipelago has around 86 separate islands with 104 different languages. The New Zealand government have in the last couple of years, set up a program to help the poorest families, by allowing them a 6 month work placement in Kiwi fruit orchards. (Incidentally there is one called Lindisfarne Orchard!) Read More

Maori art

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Creative workshop09

One of the highlights of the hui was this collection of Maori art telling the sad story of Nia Glassie. The artist used cultural symbolism and glass in her piece about this young 3 year old child who was battered and killed. The horrific abuse astounded New Zealand, bringing it to its knees. One of the things that was so powerful was the significance of glass, causing you to see your own image reflected in the art composition. Read More

Creative workshop

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We just had a wonderful hui (gathering) with creative artists and musicians. Graphic, visual and fine artists mixed with dancers and musicians from diverse backgrounds and traditions, coming together over a weekend to share life stories and artistic expression. Check out some pictures below.