Supporting the men of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū
Māori leader Sir Apirana Ngata fundraised for the men of the Māori Pioneer Battalion during the war, by establishing concert parties which toured the country performing and popularising waiata such as E pari rā and Pōkarekare āna which have remained enduring favourites today.
The money raised from these concerts was used to set up a trust for the men of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū (the Māori name for the Pioneer Battalion.) In this radio interview, Remi Morrison of Te Arawa, a member of the committee which administered the Māori Soldier’s Trust, explains how they purchased Hereheretau sheep and cattle station, to generate an ongoing income for supporting the returned veterans and their families.
Entertaining the troops, “The Kiwis” concert party
The campaigns of the Western Front saw men serving in frontline combat positions in the trenches usually for a few days to a week at a time. In between, units were rotated back to ‘reserve’ positions several kilometres away from the Front, where boredom was yet another enemy to contend with.
In an attempt to keep the troops entertained, concert parties were formed by the men, with names such as “The Pierrots”, “The Tuis” and “The Kiwis.”
Bill McKeon, who served in the Wellington Infantry and had been in a concert party himself, had fond memories of “The Kiwis” and the high-quality shows they put on at Nieppe, near Armentieres in 1917, which he recalled in a radio interview with Neville Webber.
He waiata mā te hoia kāinga ngākau koingō
I Runga o ngā Puke (From the Top of the Hills) is a waiata Māori written by Paraire Tomoana. He composed it at the request of a cousin, Ngahiwi Petiha, who wrote to Paraire while recuperating from a gunshot wound in an English hospital.
Paraire’s son, Taanga Tomoana, explains the story behind the lyrics and sings the waiata himself, in this radio interview in 1970.
Good to Go / E pai ana, Ka haere
The Second Māori Contingent is shown parading at Narrow Neck Training Camp in Auckland before leaving for the front on the SS Waitemata on 19 September 1915. According to the waiata “Te Ope Tuatahi”, composed by Apirana Ngata, the recruits of the Second Contingent were drawn mainly from the East Coast tribes of Ngāti Mahaki, Ngāti Hauiti and descendants of Porourangi. Among them was Second Lieutenant Hēnare Mōkena Kōhere of Ngāti Porou. Kōhere died of wounds on 16 September 1916 following the Battle of the Somme. He is mentioned in the sixth verse of “Te Ope Tuatahi” with the phrase: I haere ai Hēnare, I patu ki te pakanga, Ki Para-nihi ra ia. ("Farewell, O Hēnare,Me tō wiwi, and your 'clump of rushes' who fell while fighting in France". The ‘clump of rushes’ is thought to refer to the men under Kohere’s command who died alongside him.)
E pari ra / The tide surges
In this sound clip Tānga Tomoana describes how his father Paraire Hēnare Tomoana came to write lyrics for the well known and popular waiata E Pari Rā. He wrote the song in 1918 at the request of his friend Maku-i-te-Rangi Ellison whose son, Whakatomo Ellison, died in the war. Paraire wrote it as a memorial and lament for all fallen soldiers. Speculation is that Tomoana used the tune from a German Waltz, the Blue Eye’s Waltz to base his song on. Many other popular songs were written by Paraire including Pōkarekare ana, Hoea rā te waka nei, Tahi nei taru kino, Hoki hoki tonu mai. These are still performed by New Zealanders to this day. E Pari Rā was adopted by the New Zealand Navy as their official song.