Online learning course with downloadable PDFs, audio and video.
Eight round songs in Māori and English.
Volume 1 of 3 (eight songs) available now. Volumes 2 & 3 coming soon.
Online course PDF examples:
Demonstration Videos. PDFs, more learning video and audio at the online course.
8 REASONS I CREATED THESE SONGS -
AND WHY YOU (and your students) WILL LIKE TO LEARN and SING THEM WITH OTHERS
1) BEAUTY: The Māori language is beautiful to sing in
2) WISDOM: These proverbs are mind food; encouraging reminders of essential wisdom
3) BRIDGING: They are easy but beautiful songs for beginners in Te Reo Māori, but still interesting for non-beginners to sing in a round.
4) VERSATILITY: They are songs that all ages could enjoy - simple and tuneful enough for children, interesting and deep enough for adults.
5) MUSICALITY: the songs are mostly simple, but singing a round develops important musical skills: good rhythm, good pitch, and perhaps most important...
6) SOCIAL : listening to others, fitting AND contributing your part - a great social metaphor practised in music.
7) TRADITION: We sing to teach, to celebrate, to grieve, to support, to express. These songs can fit any of these reasons. In tikanga Māori "waiata tautoko" are often sung after speeches to show support.
8) LANGUAGE LEARNING: They are bilingual so you learn the meanings. The round singing invites repetition, so the learning is fun and powerful.
Kia Ora, ko Sean O'Connor tenei. I am of of Ngati Porou, Irish and Scottish whakapapa. I grew up in Gisborne with a musical whanau. I have an English degree, Diploma of Secondary Teaching (English and Music), Certificate of Waldorf Education and am studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Music (Composition).
Porowhita is one of my contributions to not just fun and music, but also the interweaving of cultures in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is an offering to the healing of racism and disconnection. As a young part-Maori with a pakeha appearance and growing up in Gisborne, I thought New Zealand was a culturally integrated society, mostly free from racism. But when I went to university and hitch-hiked back and forth in the holidays, upon telling people where I was from, I was surprised to hear some non-Maori New Zealanders express outright prejudice, ignorance and aversion to Maori, thinking that I would agree with them and identify with them as a white New Zealander.
Later, while relief teaching I wrote a song called "Potiki" which was partly about losing my own sense of turangawaewae (a place to stand) not just because of leaving home, but also because of my awareness of the broader societal loss of mana whenua - the connection to, reverence for and care for the land, the earth, which sustains us all. And it was about the loss of the spiritual element of life. Turangawaewae, mana whenua and te wairua o te ao. It was also about the call, the hope, the transformative possibility for healing and reconnection to these things on all levels. And that's what this project, Porowhita, would come to encapsulate for me.
So, while I became intensely aware of the generational wounding of a colonised culture with which I partly identified, I also accepted my belonging in the colonising culture, and became ever more separated from Te Ao Maori. I got my English degree and Teaching Diploma, went teaching at Ashburton College, had children and was married very young, then became interested in Steiner Education as my children approached school age. We moved to Hawkes Bay and I began Steiner teacher training where we sang daily and learnt many simple round and part songs for children and community singing. But none were in Maori. We had a Maori arts class where we learnt some waiata and crafts, including E Tu Kahikatea by Hirini Melbourne. I felt strongly that the types of songs we were singing were wonderful for children and community singing, but also that there was a huge gap in the Maori content. I also felt that the established waiata were quite long and difficult for beginners, and also that they were in a mostly pakeha musical style left over from the times when Maori writers took popular Western tunes and set Maori lyrics to them.
And so I set out to answer the call to create songs that bridged the gap between the worlds, songs that wove together Maori and Pakeha worldviews, musical influences, wisdom and beauty, and were suitable for children but also beautiful and enjoyable for adults. I began to search for musical ideas and lyrics that would fit with this. I read histories on Maori music and listened to archival material. I consulted with local iwi who gave me permission to use a local proverb. As it was the days before the internet, the library led me to a book of Maori Phrases in which I found many short but powerful phrases which I then made into songs, combining these many influences, life experiences, loss, gain, discovery and motivations into a body of work which became Porowhita. I wrote some tunes (but not all) in the natural minor mode, reminiscent of pre-European Maori music, including chanting. I thought the round singing form was particularly good for learning as it was repetitive yet fun, social, interactive and musically interesting. I thought it was important for most of the songs to be in both languages, as the weaving together of the meanings and the cultures was essential, and I thought it was important educationally to teach the meaning of the Maori words and to enrich the meanings in both languages. Some interest in the root meaning of words led me to believe that the Maori language was closer to both the body and the land. Aro-ha means to watch the breath. It is a grounded, embodied meaning of love. It is what we do for young children and babies to calm them. We know a lot about a person's state by how they are breathing. Whenua is land and placenta. I notice for the first time as I write this that the word placenta contains the word "place"! Perhaps English is just a step further removed.
I was planning to record these songs within the next year or so following their writing, but life happened ... I got involved in a large and unsuccessful eco-farm venture, built a house which ran out of funding, worked to pay off unsecured debt and took the chance to do so faster and perhaps more interestingly by teaching in Venezuela, which led to teaching in America at a Steiner school. There I taught 8 year olds and they were happy to sing a little in Maori! I taught them a few of my songs, finding out more about what worked and what didn't, and how to teach them! At that end of a year of teaching I decided to come back to New Zealand with my family, and as a final project and gift to the school I recorded, with members of the class, my family and a friend some of the Porowhita collection as well as other songs I had written for the class I was teaching.
This was a rough recording but an important step of completion of my time in Nashville. The final act of my time in America was a six-week music tour which included telling stories and teaching songs (including my original waiata) in a number of schools from Nashville to San Francisco.
Upon returning to New Zealand in 2006 the project was dormant for a while as I re-established myself here with various projects including guitar teaching, music and drama with disabled children and recording and touring my solo singer/songwriter album. In this process I met Phil Riley with Life of Riley studios in Korokoro. My next recording project then was with Phil, recording what was initially named "Waiata Mai" and would become Porowhita. At the same time I founded a choir in Korokoro called Natural High, and we included my four part original waiata arrangements in our repertoire, as well as trying out a few of the rounds.
Porowhita had its CD launch in 2009 at Te Papa, sung with my family and Natural High, and including teaching of songs to the large audience in the marae. My family and I as live performers featured on TVNZ's Good Morning NZ and the CD was featured on National Radio. Soon after that my life took another big turn as my family and I and a new friend recorded another album of folk/pop songs which we decided to tour around NZ, the American West Coast and Europe over nine months. A big part of this tour was visiting schools where a a major part of our performance was telling Maori legends and teaching a few favourites from Waiata Mai/Porowhita.
Upon returning to NZ again, I decided to create the book I had always intended to accompany the CD. At that time my wife and long-term musical partner Amanda died. The original recordings with her and my then young children's voices are available here at bandcamp. The book was dedicated to her and a final blessing was given to it by Koro George Tamarapa, kaumatua and former advisor to government on tikanga Maori. During the following year I worked as a relief teacher, performed locally from time to time and sold what was finally named "Porowhita - Circle Songs" to schools, libraries, choirs and more around New Zealand.
The feedback was good - people enjoyed the melodies and the moods, as well as the way the round singing created beautiful harmonies and rhythms. People loved the educational aspect and the interweaving of languages. Te Puna Reo (a Maori language based child centre in Wellington) played the CD regularly for their tamariki. A Montessori school commented that they enjoyed it particularly because of the bi-lingual aspect. Choir singers appreciated the lovely harmonies and melodies. I have been able to teach the songs at many occasions around the Wellington Region over the last few years, including at Pataka in the Festival of the Elements and at Auckland Folk Festival.
in the last few years I have been teaching through Goodtime Music Academy in the Wellington region. I started to use these songs with children on "the music bus" and we used one (Manaaki) successfully as a mass group item in an end of year performance with singing, ukuleles, guitars and keyboards. That song was taken up by National Volunteer Week as a "theme song" and was sung at their parliamentary launch event for 2019. I have taught teachers some of the songs and could see an appreciation for the songs and their usefulness. Eventually I decided to build an online course, which is what I am advertising now! One person who heard these songs being taught said: "what you do will be small but powerful". Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu. Though it is small, it is precious.
And this brings me to the deeper message: value what you do, value what is deep in your heart and longs to come to healing expression in the world. And please join me on my small but precious step in all of our journeys of healing. Then perhaps it will not be so small after all. Healing means making whole. Some say we live in a divided and divisive world, full of conflict and mistrust. But it is also rich in the powers of warmth, human nurture and co-operation. There are so many wonderful things we can do together to re-connect, to learn, to see each other and participate humbly yet wholeheartedly in whatever small or big thing we can bring to the re-weaving of our world, socially, ecologically, societally, personally and planetarily.
I invite you to join me on my step on the path, this piece of the puzzle, this weaving of one strand in the mat that we may sit on together. Come, nau mai haere mai, piki mai, kāke mai, nau mai, haere mai ki te Porowhita, to the circle of friends, of song, of healing of our hearts, of feeding, of nourishment for our minds and souls. Nau mai, haere mai ki te Porowhita.