Two men standing and talking in front of the images from the Māori Strum section of the Pūkana exhibition.

The ‘Māori strum’

See the Māori strum . . . jingajik a jingajik. That’s what they call it, ‘Do you know the jingajik, bro?’ – Jamie McCaskill

Take an audio tour with Paul Diamond one of the curators of Pūkana. Paul shares stories and highlights from the exhibition.

Listen to Paul Diamond talk about ‘The Māori strum’ in Pūkana

  • Transcript — The ‘Māori strum’

    Then we look there's a section with images of Māori and guitars, because looking at where did – how did the guitar end up being so central in Māori performance.

    So this is a collection of, sort of, two sets of images, a set of four images from very early on and then six images from much later on. So in the early images, there's an image of one of the black minstrel groups who came through New Zealand in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and who apparently had a real strong connection with Māori. And also they found it a curious experience being in New Zealand having been so discriminated against in America to come to New Zealand where, not to say there was no discrimination, but it was quite different in terms of things like coloured bars and things.

    But we love this photo, because as well as the banjo in the photo with the singers, there's a guitar. And then we have an image of Tai Paul and his Pohutu Boys in Whakarewarewa meeting house. So this was donated to us by Chris Bourke, who's a historian and writer, who was a great help to us in researching the exhibition. And he actually very generously donated this image, which is in his ‘Blue Smoke’ book.

    And it's a fascinating image, because it's acknowledging one of the key groups in the Māori show bands phenomenon. And actually a lot of those show bands are famous for having performed overseas, but this was a group that performed in Whakarewarewa and apparently Howard Morrison's parents would go along to this group. And it's acknowledging that that is part of this whole incredible tradition of show bands – Howard Morrison, Tai Paul's son, Rim D. Paul, went on to perform in show bands as well.

    Then the final two images is an image we know very, very little about. Its four men standing with a violin, a cello, a horn, and also a guitar. And we really don't know much about them, just that they're an unidentified group of Māori men with musical instruments, date unknown. It would be great if as a result of things like ‘Pūkana’ that we might learn a little bit more about these.

    There's also an image in the section of Inia Te Wiata, who was a very famous Māori base singer but also before that was a part of the Methodist Māori Choir, which was sort of how his singing talent got noted. But he's in a photo with another man, but he's standing holding a guitar.

    Any errors with the transcript, let us know and we will fix them: digital-services@dia.govt.nz

  • Transcript — The ‘Māori strum’

    Then we look there's a section with images of Māori and guitars, because looking at where did – how did the guitar end up being so central in Māori performance.

    So this is a collection of, sort of, two sets of images, a set of four images from very early on and then six images from much later on. So in the early images, there's an image of one of the black minstrel groups who came through New Zealand in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and who apparently had a real strong connection with Māori. And also they found it a curious experience being in New Zealand having been so discriminated against in America to come to New Zealand where, not to say there was no discrimination, but it was quite different in terms of things like coloured bars and things.

    But we love this photo, because as well as the banjo in the photo with the singers, there's a guitar. And then we have an image of Tai Paul and his Pohutu Boys in Whakarewarewa meeting house. So this was donated to us by Chris Bourke, who's a historian and writer, who was a great help to us in researching the exhibition. And he actually very generously donated this image, which is in his ‘Blue Smoke’ book.

    And it's a fascinating image, because it's acknowledging one of the key groups in the Māori show bands phenomenon. And actually a lot of those show bands are famous for having performed overseas, but this was a group that performed in Whakarewarewa and apparently Howard Morrison's parents would go along to this group. And it's acknowledging that that is part of this whole incredible tradition of show bands – Howard Morrison, Tai Paul's son, Rim D. Paul, went on to perform in show bands as well.

    Then the final two images is an image we know very, very little about. Its four men standing with a violin, a cello, a horn, and also a guitar. And we really don't know much about them, just that they're an unidentified group of Māori men with musical instruments, date unknown. It would be great if as a result of things like ‘Pūkana’ that we might learn a little bit more about these.

    There's also an image in the section of Inia Te Wiata, who was a very famous Māori base singer but also before that was a part of the Methodist Māori Choir, which was sort of how his singing talent got noted. But he's in a photo with another man, but he's standing holding a guitar.

    Any errors with the transcript, let us know and we will fix them: digital-services@dia.govt.nz

Discover more from the exhibition

No hea te kitā Māori?

Ko te rakuraku te taonga whakatangitangi ka kitea nuitia i ngā kapa Māori – mai i te kapa haka, ki ngā pēne whakangahau Māori, ki te puoro rakatū me te puoro arotini. He pēhea i pēnei ai? I tae mai te kitā ki konei i te rautau tekau mā iwa, engari he tere tonu te horapa mai i te ngahuru tau 1920.

I haere ngātahi te hāpainga o te kitā me te pīrangi a te iwi ki te puoro arotini, waihoki te taenga mai o ngā momo puoro pēnei i te Hawai’iana, te puoro tuawhenua, me te puoro tautito piu. Nā te kaituhi hītori nei nā Michael Brown te whakamārama mō te ‘rakuraku a te Māori’ – he tikanga rakuraku i te kitā kia puta he ‘tangi reka, he tangi nui, he manawatahi pahū’ e tino paingia ana i Aotearoa. ‘Ka rongo mātou i taua tū rakuraku i ngā wāhi katoa, ko ngā pō whakangahau waiata ērā . . . ko te kapa haka tērā . . . ko ā tātou rēkoata tonu tērā’.

The Māori strum

The guitar is the instrument most often associated with Māori performance – from kapa haka to Māori showbands, rock and popular music. How did this happen? The guitar arrived here in the 19th century but rapidly grew in popularity from the 1920s.

The adoption of the guitar happened in tandem with the spread of popular music and the arrival of genres such as Hawai’ian music, country and swing jazz. Historian Michael Brown describes what emerged as ‘the Māori strum’ – a distinctive strumming style with a ‘full-bodied sound and percussive pulse’ that’s very popular in New Zealand. ‘We hear it in a lot of different contexts, including party singalong[s] . . . kapa haka, and . . . in our recorded music’

Four Māori men holding string and brass instruments.

Feature image at top of page: Discussing the exhibition. Photo by Mark Beatty.