16 August 2006

Remembering Queen Te Atairangikaahu

An extended stay in Aotearoa/New Zealand some years ago instilled in me a deep appreciation of the Maori culture and the ways in which Maoris are maintaining, updating, and sharing their music, language, and history. So it is with sadness that I learned today of the passing of Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu.Maori Queen Te Atairangikaahu

Crowned 23 May 1966, the queen has no official constitutional duties, but the outpouring of emotion at her passing clearly indicates her influence and popularity. Tributes to her cultural work and selflessness are pouring in from across the Pacific and as far away as New York, as well as at home. "Her passing is a huge loss for the whole country. She was a true treasure, equally at home in the company of presidents or the common man," says Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Mark Solomon.

A week of mourning has been declared, and the queen's tangi (the Maori funeral observation) will last five days, concluding with burial on Taupiri Mountain to take place on Monday.

I don't know what kind of music might traditionally be part of the tangi, but the voice that comes to mind for me at this time is that of Whirimako Black. An extremely talented singer songwriter, Black has won Best Maori Language Album at the NZ Music Awards and is internationally known to world music fans. This song is an emotional lament about a historical tragedy. The specific tragedy is unnamed in the liner notes, so I hope it's not inappropriate for this occassion.

[mp3] Whirimako Black: "E Kui Kumara"
from the album Hine Pukohurangi / Shrouded In The Mist

More headlines and background on the queen:
South Island iwi mourn death of the Maori Queen
Te Atairangikaahu at Wikipedia
Queen Remembered Around the World
How the Next Maori Monarch Is Chosen
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