Composer, practitioner and cross genre collaborator, Horomona Horo has fused the traditional instruments of the Maori, taonga puoro (singing treasures), within a diverse range of cultural and musical forms.
Mentored by tohunga (experts) of taonga puoro, the late Dr Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns, in 2001, Horo won the inaugural Dynasty Heritage Concerto Competition and in the intervening years has become the international Maori face of Taonga Puoro.
Performances including orchestral work with the Weimarer Staatskapelle Orchestra, hip-hop with Pao Pao Pao, Opera in the Park with Kiri Te Kanawa, guest artist at the 90th Commemorations of the Battle of Passchendaele, and international tours with Moana and the Tribe, Canti Maori, Irish collaboration - Green Fire Islands and the Voices NZ Choir have enabled Horomona to extend his knowledge and skills across diverse genres whilst remaining a cultural and musical educator in his own right.
Horo continues to emerse himself in the unique sounds, techniques and intrinsic significance and practises of taonga puoro. Not only of musical significance, the instruments are part of the holistic culture of all life, birth, death and nature, to which he was born. Each instrument has a specific use within rights of passage, storytelling and daily life of the Maori peoples.
Back in Aug' 2016 at Maungatautari ...
Sitting at Sydney airport, waiting for our boarding call to Auckland, the phone blipped and the message we had been waiting for was there, ‘Yes I’m in Aotearoa, lets catch up for a recording session”, perfect timing as you would expect from a Taonga Puoro master. The Taonga Puoro are a collection of traditional Maori instruments along with a deep understanding of Maori, and the message was from Horomona Horo. Hormona Horo is the most respected master of Taonga Puoro, a tradition passed to him by Hirini Melbourne and Dr Richard Nunns (You can hear and see their work preserving these instruments online and at the Auckland and Wellington Museums).
Horomona introduced us to Waimihi Hotere who is also the member of Nga Tae and can sing the waiata tangi (see Waimihi’s profile for a description), together we all went to Maungatautari (Sanctuary mountain), the last original native forest in Aotearao.
Maungatautari is a community driven nature preserve an ancient eco-system which has provided a safe environment to reintroduce some of New Zealand’s most endangered species back to their natural habitat. As Horomona and Waimihi guided us into the forest, “we used this fern tip to ease childbirth; we would lay this Ponga’s (silver tree fern) leaf silver side up to find our way home, the silver shines under the moon. See! This is our Maori green tea from the Kawakawa plant”, it made sense to be there, and after finding a spot amongst the Kawakawa trees surrounded by the call of Kaka and Tui birds, they recorded a piece responding to the forest with the Taonga Puoro and Waiata Tangi, in respect of the forest named, ‘Maungatautari’.
Amongst the Tui calls, you can hear Horomona playing the Nguru (small wooden flute), the Koauau (a bone flute) he caries with him everywhere in his earlobe and the Pūtōrino a beautifully carved wooden flute from the Matai tree, the same trees casting shadows across him in the film.
We also played few other Small Island Big Song’s songs to Horomona to overdub on. He put on the headphones, trying out few different tones, and then contributed Purerehua (bullroarer), pūtātara (conch shell) and Pākuru (A type of mouth bamboo percussion) onto Ka Va’ai Mai Koe I Tou Rima Ena, Ke Ha’a Lā Puna and Uyas Gerakun.
It was just so beautiful and inspiring recording and filming with Horomona and Waimihi at Maungatautari. We learnt so much through their music and storytelling, not just about the Taonga Puoro, but also the Maori culture and the precious environment.
When we finished the session and walked out the forest, we realised the whole area was surrounded by ten metre high wall to protect the forest from introduced species. We suddenly understood the reason of recording in here, as they all are trying to keep the treasures of this land alive and has it’s future.
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