The Maori: Yesterday and To-day
The Flute Song for Hinemoa
The Flute Song for Hinemoa.
The Maori had not many musical instruments. The putatara and pukaea were shell and wooden trumpets which gave forth loud doleful calls, more of a bray than a bugle-call, but there also was a more musical trumpet of twisted flax-blades. There was the roria or twanging stick; the name was transferred to the Jew's-harp when the Maoris first acquired that instrument of plaintive music-making. There was the flute, of two kinds, the putorino and the koauau. The latter was a nose-flute, and with it the performer could speak, in a nasal way, thus saying to music the words of a waiata.
Many years ago an old rangatira dame on Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, gave me this koauau song handed down through nine or ten generations as the waiata-koauau which Tutanekai, of Mokoia, composed as his love song for Hinemoa, the famous maid of Owhata. “On yon mound above us there,” she said, “the hill called Kaiweka, Tutanekai and his friend Tiki had their tree-balcony where they sat and played; Tutanekai sounded the putatara (wooden trumpet or horn) and Tiki played the page 97 koauau. Tutanekai also played the koauau, but it was Tiki who chiefly played it, and the song which Tutanekai composed for it in honour of my ancestress Hinemoa became celebrated in the land.” The venerable chieftainess wagged her close-cropped white head, and imitated the sound of the playing of the koauau with the breath of the nostrils, and at the same time the nasal long-drawn chant:
“Na-a te waka ra-a
Kai te Kopua-a
Hai-i wa-aka mai mo-ou
Kai rangi na koe-e
Kai rangikura-a te tau e-e!
Ko'ai ra-a i runga i-a-a Iri-iri-Kapua?
Ko Hinemoa pea-a
Ko te-e tamahine o-o Umukaria-a;
Hai tau naaku ki te whare ra-a.”
“In yon canoe at Te Kopua's shore
Thou'lt paddle to Mokoia's isle.
From heaven art thou,
From heaven's crimson light,
O darling of my heart!
See yonder lonely form
On Iri-iri-Kapua rock,
Perchance 'tis Hinemoa,
The maiden daughter of Umukaria—
A loving wife of mine thou'lt be.”
“And this,” said the tattooed descendant of Hinemoa, as she ceased the imitation of the nose-flute, and began a plaintive little low-pitched waiata, “this is the song which Hinemoa sang as she sat lonely on yon high rock at Owhata when she found that she could not launch a canoe to paddle to her Tutanekai”:
“E te tau, e te tau!
Ka wehe koe i ahau.
Tu tonu ake nei toku aroha.
Nga tikapa kai te Houhi.
Ka hua au, e te tau,
Mau taua e kau mai
Kia rokohanga mai e hua,
Rurutu ana i taku moe,
Kia puripuri au nga takitaki
No Whitirere kai runga,
Kia rakuraku au to tuara nui
Puru ki te kauri.
E kore hoki au e tahuri,
Tata iho kia koutou
Koua kitea, e Wahiao,
Toku hawaretanga i taku itinga,
“Lover mine, lover mine,
I'm separated far from thee.
Alas, my well-beloved
Would that thou'd come for me!
Then searching, slowly paddling,
Thy willing wife thou'd find,
And both would flee together.
Would that I were in thy dear home
Within Whitirere's threshold there above!
I'd greet thee fondly and embrace
Thy lordly form, with chief's tattoo adorned—
O lover mine!”
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It was then that Hinemoa, despairing of meeting her lover otherwise, swam the lake to Mokoia, where he found her in the warm spring Waikimihia. Some pakehas have imagined that it was the sound of the flute that guided Hinemoa to Mokoia in the darkness of the night. The faint and plaintive music of the koauau, however, could scarcely have been wafted to the ears of the maid of Owhata across two miles of water. It was the braying of Tutanekai's wooden trumpet, softened by distance, that cheered Hinemoa as she swam the sleeping lake.
Rangi-Topeora, often called “the Queen of the South,” a famous Ngati-Toa chieftainess and composer of chants. She was a niece of Te Rauparaha and sister of Te Rangihaeata. She took part with her tribe in the great migration from Kawhia to Cook Strait, and lived for many years on Kapiti Island and afterwards at Otaki.
[From a painting by G. Lindauer.