Taiohi Taiao

Works with taonga pūoro, Choral music

For SATB choir, 2 soloists and taonga pūoro

Text by Aroha Yates-Smith

Taiohi Taiao was commissioned by Tower Voices New Zealand with funding from Creative New Zealand. They gave the first performance at the Otago Festival in October 2004 conducted by Karen Grylls.

About the work

Taiohi Taiao sets a waiata written in 2004 by Aroha Yates-Smith.

koropupu ake ana
nga wai o te matapuna
he wai matao
he wai reka ki te korokoro
he wai tohi i te punua
waiora waimarama wairua

te puna o te tangata
te putanga mai o nga reanga
hei poipoi I nga taonga tuku iho
pukenga wananga
manaaki tangata
tiaki whenua
tamaiti taiohi taiao

Bubbling upwards rise
the waters from the spring
cool, refreshing water
fluid delighting the taste buds
blessing the young
water — life-giving, clear — the spirit.

The springs of humankind
producing generations
who will nurture their inheritance
learning from the storehouse of knowledge
hospitality/generosity to all
guardianship of the land
Child Youth Universe.

The waiata acknowledges the vital role natural springs have in providing clean, delicious drinking water, which nourishes humankind and the wider environment. The water is also used in traditional and contemporary forms of blessing our young. The line ‘waiora waimarama wairua’ refers to the life-giving force of the water, its clarity and purity, and the spiritual essence which pervades it and every life force.

The second verse focuses on the importance of generation after generation preserving all that is important. ‘Te puna o te tangata’ refers to the fountain of humankind, that is, the womb which produces the future progeny of our people. From woman is born humankind — generations of people who continue to nurture and maintain those treasures passed down through eons of time: knowledge and wisdom, the importance of caring for others and looking after the environment.

The final line, ‘tamaiti taiohi taiao’ creates a link between the (tiny) infant, youth and the wider environment, and ultimately the universe.


The piece is devised so that it can be performed with or without the taonga pūoro — kōauau ponga ihu and kōauau koiwi kuri. In the event that it is sung with the taonga, there can be considerable flexibility to allow the weaving of soloist and kōauau. The kōauau ponga ihu, a nose flute, used in the first verse is a very quiet instrument, while the koauau koiwi kuri has a much stronger voice.

Accidentals refer throughout the bar. Sometimes cautionary accidentals are used. In the sustained pedal sections, staggered breathing should be used to ensure continuity of sound.

Scores and recording

Buy or borrow the score, hire the parts or buy the CD from SOUNZ.

Taiohi Taiao — SOUNZ

Tower Voices New Zealand have recorded this work.

Spirit of the Land — CD