A karanga is a call which begins the Maori ceremony or welcome, the powhiri. Traditionally the karanga is performed by the women. It is an indication that the visitors (the ‘manuhiri’) should begin to move forward on the marae.
“The start of he karanga indicates to a visitor that they are free to approach their hosts across the marae atua (sacred space directly in front of the meeting house). The call also clears a spiritual path for the ancestros of both the visitor and host and meet and partake in the ceremonial uniqueness of the powhiri.” (from www.newzealand.com)
The karanga also includes acknowledgment of ancestors and may allow the visitors to identify where they have come from.
Although my work picks up on some of these traditional karanga elements, it is not intended to be a representation of an actual karanga or powhiri. The text is drawn from several sources, and includes some typical traditional karanga calls. In the music, the female voices represent the hosts and the male voices represent the visitors, although at times (for purely musical reasons) this distinction is blurred.
The women’s text is founded on the call of “Haere mai!” (“Welcome!”), and the men’s text of “Karanga mai!” (“Call!”). THese two phrases recur throughout the work, often underpinning other texts. Although the two groups often call back and forth to each other, at times the two groups also perform together, super-imposing their respective texts. Towards the end of the work the two groups come together and the work ends with all singers presenting the same text.
Musically, the work begins by using rhythmic ideas which suggest traditional chant. No actual traditional chants are used however. A feature of a karanga is the unbroken line of sound which passes from singer to singer. Much of the remainder of the work uses a rich palette of tonal harmonies often moving slowly from chord to chord. The piece includes a part for conch shell player, an instrument also associated with calling to visitors and welcoming them.
Karanga was written for The Graduate Choir and their conductor Terence Maskell