The music of New Zealand’s native people, the Maori is among the oldest and most ancient in human history probably as far back as a time when the people lived all the way up in the South-East of Asia. Spending centuries untouched by any cultures round them the Polynesians were free to practice and create whatever they liked with no outside influence. Described as a ‘dreary monotone’ ‘slow and solemn’ these sounds are almost all that remains from a past long forgotten stretching back a millennium.
The effect of music on the more ritualistic aspects of ancient cultures is there for all to see and no more is that more apparent than in the Maori culture. Pre- colonial incantations and rites formed a large portion not only of the importance to the culture but also expression. These things all went had in hand and were sides of the same coin. Since the arrival of Europeans the culture of the Maoris has been changed almost to the point where they are unrecognisable from the people who first came down from Asia. Seemingly bereft of any dedication to the preservation of something so old and cultural. Many Maoris have struggled to adapt to the new life that ‘civilised’ Europeans had brought to the islands and this evident in the music. Many bands now who consist of traditional Maoris are focused on music that conveys a sense of their dissatisfaction with the new type of society. It is a real shame because it is a rich culture and one rooted in harmony and an appreciation of nature like the whale and other marine life.
Maori music may be lost to the history books and maybe that’s because Maoris have become disillusioned not only with their past but with a future that they have had no part in shaping. This is perhaps why the music hasn’t survived and why the music being made now has no links to the past. Truly it is a cultural shame and one that maybe can be rectified in generations to come. It will take a lot of work to bring it back to life but maybe there are still some Maoris out there who hold and interest in the old way and will want to show it to the world once more. We can only hope that this is the case and wait for that day to come where the solemn sounds of the age old people can be heard once more.