Miss­ing Kiwi mu­sic of WWI

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

A new book looks at the sur­pris­ing mu­si­cal legacy of the Great War. re­ports.

Have you ever won­dered why there is no pop­u­lar New Zealand song as­so­ci­ated with World War I? Ask 99 per cent of Ki­wis to name a song from that war and it is a good bet that it will be It’s A Long Way to Tip­per­ary or even the bawdy Made­moi­selle from Ar­men­tieres.

So why does New Zealand not have a pop­u­lar song as­so­ci­ated with World War I?

It is a ques­tion that takes on even more sig­nif­i­cance given the im­pact Gal­lipoli and, in more re­cent times, the Western Front, has had on our na­tional iden­tity.

East­bourne jour­nal­ist and his­to­rian Chris Bourke ad­dresses the is­sue in his lat­est book Good-Bye Ma¯ori­land.

Mu­sic was cen­tral to the war ef­fort both at home and over­seas. Troops marched off with brass bands play­ing and pa­tri­otic songs urg­ing them to do their best for King and Coun­try.

Over­seas our sol­diers sang a range of songs, of­ten rein­vent­ing clas­sic Bri­tish tunes to have a sub­tle dig at their of­fi­cers.

Bourke had re­mark­ably lit­tle recorded mu­sic to work with.

There are ap­prox­i­mately 200 song sheets from that era but only four known record­ings, all of which were done in Eng­land. He was able to track down two of the record­ings, Good Old New Zealand and Sons of New Zealand, in the hands of a col­lec­tor in Auck­land.

Without recorded tunes to work with, Bourke faced a ma­jor prob­lem in his re­search.

For­tu­nately two avid col­lec­tors of sheet mu­sic, David Dell and Alis­tair Gilk­i­son, had found 178 songs writ­ten by New Zealan­ders between 1914 and 1919.

The ma­jor themes were pre­dictably sup­port for the boys in khaki, em­pire and king, and New Zealand pa­tri­o­tism.

Songs writ­ten at the be­gin­ning of the con­flict were all about sup­port­ing the troops and the Bri­tish Em­pire, and were of­ten highly jin­go­is­tic.

As the war dragged on, the themes changed and there was a sense of grief and re­flec­tion of how heavy the losses had been.

When the war fin­ished and the armistice was signed, such songs no longer had a pur­pose and were quickly for­got­ten. In cities such as Welling­ton and Auck­land, new forms of mu­sic be­came com­mon and there was no place for songs about pa­tri­o­tism and sac­ri­fice.

‘‘Peo­ple wanted to move on and there was jazz, and the fox trot was in­vad­ing our night­clubs.’’

In Eng­land songs from the war were kept alive in mu­sic halls and in pan­tomimes.

But in New Zealand there was no mood to sing about a war that hap­pened on the other side of the world and in­flicted such ter­ri­ble ca­su­al­ties on the na­tion.

There was, how­ever, one notable ex­cep­tion. Ma¯ori played a long over­looked role in the war. As well as serv­ing in the Pioneer Bat­tal­ion they also fought and died along­side pa¯keha¯ troops.

Troops over­seas per­formed the haka with pride and mu­sic was cen­tral to the ex­pe­ri­ence of Ma¯ori sol­diers.

In 1915 the Do­min­ion car­ried a re­port on the 518 Ma¯ori who marched over the Rimu­taka Hill on their way to Egypt.

‘‘The ef­fect of hun­dreds of strong voices chant­ing what sounds like a lament was very mov­ing.’’

The mu­sic cre­ated and sung by Ma¯ori has left a last­ing legacy.

Lead­ers like Api­rana Ngata be­lieved the war pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity to be treated as equals and en­cour­aged en­list­ment.

He cham­pi­oned Ma¯ori­tanga and mu­sic was at the fore­front of fundrais­ing and other Ma¯ori ef­forts to sup­port the war ef­fort.

A num­ber of Ma¯ori songs be­came pop­u­lar in­clud­ing E Pari Ra¯ and Hoe Ra Te Waka Nei. Both were sung by the Ma¯ori Bat­tal­ion in World War II and are still pop­u­lar to­day.

Af­ter the war Pokarekare and Po Ata­rau, which is bet­ter known as Now is the Hour, also be­came hits.

Ma¯ori songs from that pe­riod are no longer as­so­ci­ated with the war but they pro­vided the mod­ern wa­iata that are now part of our na­tional reper­toire.

Bourke also found that the songs sung by Ma¯ori troops helped in the later de­vel­op­ment of Ma¯ori pop cul­ture.

In Good-Bye Ma¯ori­land Bourke, has un­earthed some real mu­si­cal gems, in­clud­ing the story of Ina Bos­worth.

An 18 year-old vi­o­lin prodigy, she left New Zealand hop­ing to be­come a con­cert artist in Lon­don.

Her promis­ing ca­reer was cut off by the war but in­stead of re­turn­ing home, she set up her own group, the Fem­ina Trio. They en­ter­tained troops on the Western Front, where she of­ten en­coun­tered ex­treme con­di­tions.

When the Fem­ina Trio ac­ci­den­tally caught the wrong train, they ended up in a Ger­man bom­bard­ment.

With the rail­way sta­tion thronged with civil­ians and sol­diers try­ing to get away from the bom­bard­ment, the el­derly sta­tion mas­ter locked them in a wait­ing room overnight, un­til a train could take them to safety in the morn­ing.

Good-Bye Ma¯ori­land looks at every as­pect of New Zealand mu­sic dur­ing World War I. Although lit­tle of the mu­sic sur­vives, the amount of ma­te­rial, es­pe­cially pic­tures, un­earthed by the author is stag­ger­ing.

With the hun­dredth an­niver­sary of the armistice ap­proach­ing, it is a timely re­minder of just how wide rang­ing New Zealand’s ex­pe­ri­ence of war was.

‘‘Peo­ple wanted to move on and there was jazz, and the fox trot was in­vad­ing our night­clubs.’’

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