Con­fi­dence from ances­tors’ sto­ries


Learn­ing a tra­di­tional in­stru­ment is as much about the fu­ture as it is about the past, Jerome Ka­vanagh says.

The Bali-based Kiwi runs work­shops and on­line cour­ses teach­ing peo­ple to play taonga puoro [tra­di­tional Ma¯ ori mu­si­cal in­stru­ments].

The in­stru­ments in­clude spin­ning discs, per­cus­sion in­stru­ments and flutes carved from to­tara wood, whale tooth, al­ba­tross bones, shells, and green­stone.

The mu­si­cal in­stru­ment recre­ate sounds from the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, such as the howl­ing of the wind, Ka­vanagh said.

‘‘Taonga puoro hold the vi­bra­tion of the nat­u­ral world,’’ he said.

Ka­vanagh re­cently held a work­shop at REAP Cen­tral Plateau.

His main busi­ness is de­liv­er­ing on­line cour­ses for cus­tomers and schools in Europe, USA, Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

‘‘I re­alised a lot of schools don’t have the hu­man re­sources avail­able to teach the taonga puoro them­selves, so I fo­cused on cre­at­ing on­line video tu­to­ri­als,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s about em­pow­er­ing our peo­ple – espe­cially our teach­ers – so they can share that with their kids,’’ he said.

Re­mem­ber­ing past tra­di­tions and look­ing into ances­tors’ sto­ries could en­cour­age self­be­lief in the present, Ka­vanagh said.

‘‘It’s a Ma¯ ori ap­proach and tool that can em­power ev­ery­body.’’

Ka­vanagh’s mother is of Ma¯ ori de­scent and his fa­ther is of Ir­ish de­scent.

‘‘Our great great great grand­fa­ther came to Taranaki on the Lady­bird. They were on their way to Amer­ica but they stopped here and never got back onto the boat,’’ he said.

Back in the 1800s, his ances­tors wouldn’t have had modern con­ve­niences, such as su­per­mar­kets they could visit in the evening or freez­ers to keep meat frozen, but they made do, he said.

‘‘You draw in­spi­ra­tion from your ances­tors’ sto­ries,’’ he said.

‘‘My whole fam­ily and my wife are re­ally staunch on be­ing in­de­pen­dent, and that’s how we look at the sto­ries of our ances­tors.

‘‘They prac­ticed their sovereignty through the prac­tice of their busi­ness and their life.’’

* Visit jeromekav.


Jerome Ka­vanagh plays a Taonga Puoro at a re­cent work­shop at REAP Cen­tral Plateau.

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