Voice and instrumental ensemble

For soprano, clarinet and piano

Whakatau-kī translated from Māori by Margaret Orbell

Pao was commissioned by the Northumberland-based Syrinx Trio, with financial assistance from Northern Arts. They gave the first performance in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1981.

About the work

Pao is the name given by Māori to 2-lined epigrammatic songs which comment on a wide range of subjects such as love, war, politics or religion, often topical, often improvised.

Most of the songs set here were collected in 1864 from Māori prisoners captured during the land wars in the Waikato area south of Auckland. The couplets are not connected in any way except for the central group, set for unaccompanied voice, concerning Pikeri, a character famous at the time for his escapades evading the police; in this instance, enforced separation during a love affair is charted.

The central section, Pikeri can be performed separately.


About the text

Margaret Orbell’s English translations of these pao, published in her Māori Poetry, an introductory anthology (Heinemann, 1978), are used with her kind permission.


Pikeri  was published in Kowhai an album of songs by New Zealand women composers. It is now out of print.

Kowhai — publication

Buy or borrow the score of Pao from SOUNZ.