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The role of traditional Maori musical instruments – Taonga Pūoro

22 June 2005

Traditional Maori society used music in community ritual and very rarely for entertainment, highlighting a conflict with the western concept of music, says University of Waikato performer and lecturer in Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori musical instruments), Rangiiria Hedley.

Ms Hedley, a respected authority on traditional Maori music and instrument making, from the Ngati Tuwharetoa iwi, is giving an illustrated public lecture at Our City O-Tautahi on Thursday, 30 June, 2005.

Her address will be the fourth annual Dr Alice Moyle Lecture, given as part of the Australasian Sound Recordings Association Inc (ASRA) Conference, 2005.  ASRA was formed in 1986, out of the Australian branch of the International Association of Sound Archivists, to conserve recorded sound.

Ms Hedley says in summarising the theme for her Moyle lecture that Maori share with other indigenous people throughout the world similar understandings about sound and its origins. It is, therefore, not uncommon to find instruments which look, sound and are played similarly around the world for ritual and spiritual events, and healing.

A variety of musical instruments were used by Maori in birth, for healing, helping things grow, and in death to help usher people from the world. Entertainment was the least important function for Maori music, Ms Hedley says.

While stories about the instruments vary from Maori tribe to tribe, no one tribe has retained a complete knowledge about them, so Taonga Puoro has much to teach us about the past as well as the present. Taonga Puoro is inextricably connected to Maori spirituality and attitudes about conservation and the environment, she says.

All people are welcome to hear Ms Hedley speak at 11.15am in the Debating Chamber of Our City O-Tautahi, corner of Worcester Boulevard and Oxford Terrace.

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