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This karakia, or spell, was recited by the tohunga at the ceremonial opening of a newly completed house, or the launching of a canoe – a ritual “binding” to ensure that it stood firm. The melody of Kupe is derived from two famous Maori poi songs – Hoea Ra and E Papa Waiari (the later, of Polynesian origin, is also a popular accompaniment to the Maori stick game). A verse from each song may be used as a descant, sung very softly in harmony. Kupe, an intrepid Polynesian navigator, sailed from the legendary home of the Maori people, Hawaiiki (thought to be Tahiti) in about 150 A.D.. Ngahue, another celebrated ancestor, captained the second canoe of this expedition. After a long, arduous journey, Kupe’s wife first sighted land, crying “He ao! He ao!” (A cloud! A cloud!) – from which New Zealand derives its Maori name, Aotearoa, or Land of the Long White Cloud.
Arranged by Dorothea Franchi.
Text by Willow Macky