Taonga Puoro


Hue (M)

In Toi Huarewa, the Hue Puruhau is the voice of Hine Pū Te Hue (who is the Kaitiaki / guardian spirit of this instrument, and all gourds).

The Hue Puruhau is made from a gourd which has been hollowed out and had its seeds removed. By blowing across the top of the instrument, a soft, low tone is created.

This instrument is associated with peace – it is said that Hine Pū Te Hue (herself, a daughter of Tane, God of the Forest) brought peace to her father’s warring brothers after the  separation of their parents, Ranginui (the Sky Father) and Papatuanuku (the Earth Mother).

All of the instruments of the Taonga Puoro are descended from the families of the Gods and they also embody their characteristics – therefore, all of the Gourds possess elements of Hine Pū Te Hue’s nature.

When Hine Pū Te Hue grants Puiaki’s request to quiet the forest, you will hear her voice in the Hue Purehau, calling for peace.


Putorino (M)

Hine Raukatauri, Goddess of Music – and Kaitiaki of all flutes – is the guardian spirit of the Putorino. Her earthly representation is the native New Zealand case moth – an insect with a unique life cycle. The female case moth has no wings and lives and dies inside the case that she weaves for herself. The Putorino is made in the shape of her case and when it sings, it sings on her behalf.

Case Moth - Illustration    Putorino

In Toi Huarewa, Hine Raukatauri (or Puiaki, as I’ve called her in the story) speaks through this instrument – along with the violin, who also represents her.

on the violin, you will hear Hine Raukatauri’s voice as a tiny rustling sound, almost inaudible, but which occasionally is able to be heard as a melody, full of longing. This is also the nature of her sound in the forest, which is described as almost imperceptible amidst the cacophony of the other birds and insects.

Later in the piece, when Te Ra comes closer to the earth, the Putorino speaks in a full voice, representing Puiaki’s fear and desperation as she gasps and cries in awe at the power of the sun. As Te Rā turns to discover her, she is turned into dust – and you can hear her calling back to the earth as Tawhirimātea gathers her ashes and casts her into the sky.

Case Moth - Horo copy


Koauau (M)

Hine Ruakatauri is also the Kaitiaki of the Koauau. In Te Ao Maori, it is said that the Gods sang the Universe into existence – and so all instruments are descended from the families of the Gods. While flutes are governed by Hine Raukatauri, their melodies are also considered to originate from Ranginui, the Sky Father, and their rhythms from Papatuanuku.

This Koauau Potutu is made of carved bone and has a dark, breathy tone. In Toi Huarewa, it is the voice of the Patupaiarehe, who descend from the mist in response to Puiaki’s call. The Patupaiarehe are extremely powerful creatures, guardians of great knowledge and masters of the flute. Their melodies are irresistible to humans, who are said to fall hopelessly in love with them and who go to great lengths to trap them in the earthly realm.


Ku (M)

The Ku is the only stringed instrument in the Taonga Puoro. This is a very important instrument to Toi Huarewa, because it represents the common ancestor of the Taonga Puoro and the Western tradition.

Looking back through the whakapapa of the piano, the violin and the cello, I realised that an instrument like the Ku would have been the earliest version of all three of these instruments.

In the case of the violin and the cello, the first bowed string instruments would have worked much as the Ku does. They would have had single strings that were lashed to a bow or a bone. They would have originated in Mongolia and Siberia, amongst the nomadic, equine peoples and would have been strung with horse-hair (as violin and cello bows still are). The string would have been struck with a stick or a bone, as the Ku is.

Perhaps by accident, it would have occurred to someone to bow the string in order to make it vibrate for a longer time. Or to pluck it. And then to add another string. And so on. It isn’t hard to extrapolate a violin or a cello from this instrument, with all the benefit of our historical perspective.

But the string of a Ku is struck, rather than bowed, and from this technique, you can trace the evolution of the piano’s mechanism as it became more and more sophisticated – first evolving into the hammered dulcimer (some references to Dulcimers have been found that date back as far as 5000BC), then into the clavichord and finally, into the modern piano – which remains a hammered string instrument, if not a rather more complicated one.

Inside a Piano - One Note       Horomona - Ku


Poi Awhiowhio (M)

This instrument is one of my favourites.  It is made from a gourd, and so it is an instrument of Hine Pū te Hue, but because it is whirled overhead, it is also considered to be governed by Tawhirimātea, God of the Wind.

The Poi Awhiowhio was historically used as a hunting lure, because it can be made to sound like different animals and birds, but it is also considered to be able to bring soul-mates together and to create love.

In Toi Huarewa, the Poi Awhiowhio is used to represent the hope of Puiaki – and her desire to be reunited with Tawhiti. It also represents Tawhirimātea’s unrequited love for Puiaki.


Purerehua (M)

The Purerehua is a bone blade that is swung overhead in the same manner as the Poi Awhiowhio, but with a very different sonic quality.

It gets its name from the Purerehua moth, and its sound evokes the sound of a moth’s wings beating in the air. Tawhirimātea is the Kaitiaki of this instrument and its sound is said to emanante from within the soul of the player, carrying their prayers and intentions up – through the body of the player, along the string of the instrument and beyond, into the ancestral world.

Because Puiaki herself is never able to fly out of her case, in Toi Huarewa, the Purerehua carries her hopes and intentions into the air.

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