A Maori song about the First World War



This waiata (song) is attributed to Sir Apirana Ngata, a Maori member of the New Zealand parliament. He wrote it down in this form and publicized it to inspire wartime recruitment. Ngata published it in 1916 as the numbers of both Maori and white New Zealanders signing up for the war were dropping. It calls to the men of New Zealand, tribe by tribe, to come and avenge their fallen brothers and carry their honour and memories of their valour in battle, back home.


This song was written as a recruitment tool by Apirana Ngata, a leader of his tribe and a Member of the New Zealand Parliament. Ngata was strongly in favour of the war and of Maori participation in it. He believed that by proving their loyalty in the war Maori would win respect and more political representation back in New Zealand. At the same time Princess Te Puea was encouraging Maori not to join up, for she believed they would gain nothing from fighting in a war on behalf of the British, their colonizers. The issue intensified when the government introduced conscription for white New Zealanders but not for Maori. Ngata lobbied for conscription being applied to Maori.
In order to encourage, as well as conscript, Maori to fight, Ngata wrote this song. It calls on the men of every tribe to unify and join the war effort. Note that it acknowledges the contributions each region and tribe had already made. In doing so it appeals to tribal and regional loyalty and honor, as well as to national identity. This song and the protest by Te Puea described in the contrasting source show how the war reached across the globe and sparked local disagreements. This source also shows how the war stimulated new forms of cultural production. Ngata’s waiata, or song, became very popular and was subsequently used for recruiting in World War II. Like Te Puea’s songs critiquing the war, it was performed widely and helped inspire widespread interest in Maori culture. Maori performing arts groups used it on tour and at fundraisers. One of the long-lasting effects of their work can be seen in the ongoing pride New Zealanders take in the 'haka' or war song performed by many top sports teams before their games. New Zealand may have seemed peripheral to some of the commanders at the front but the war sparked an encounter between Apirana Ngata and Te Puea that left a lasting and central cultural legacy in Aotearoa, New Zealand itself.
The singer of this performance is Ana Hato, a gifted performer, sportswoman, and proud promoter of Maori culture who was well-known for performing this song in recruitment drives and fundraisers for World War Two.