Ngā pūoro Māori (Māori music)

Where can I find information about ngā pūoro Māori (Māori music)?

Image: Sounding the Pūtātara by Government House on The Governor-General of New Zealand.

Entry last updated: 10/05/21


Māori music has many important composers, some of whom use traditional mōteatea (chanted song-poetry), and others whose music includes introduced musical styles and influences. Later composers have created new music in te reo Māori ( Māori language), which reflects the history, culture, and experiences of Māori. Since 1991, several musicians have worked to revive the playing of traditional instruments (taonga puoro).

List of ngā pūoro Māori terms

Mōteatea: the tradition of chanted song-poetry.

Taonga puoro: traditional Māori musical instruments. These are grouped in whānau (extended families).

Waiata tawhito: traditional Māori songs. These include aroha (love songs), oriori (lullaby), and tangi (laments).

Waiata hōu: contemporary Māori songs.

Haka: traditional Māori dances of challenge or welcome accompanied by a chant.

History of Māori music

Traditional Māori music is based on the emotions of the gods in Māori mythology. These emotions include sorrow, anger, lament, loneliness, desire, joy, peace, and love. Words were added to tunes and rhythm to express emotions and experiences.

Here are some New Zealand websites which have good information about the history of Māori music.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is owned by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and answers all questions about the people, environment, history, culture, and society of New Zealand Māori. Information is well-researched and reliable. You can access this site in te reo Māori and English.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Te Ao Hou

This site is the online version of a bilingual quarterly published by the Māori Affairs Department from 1952 to 1976. It has options to browse by issues, authors, and subjects like Māori history, society, culture, music, and literature.

  • Enter 'music'in the search box.
  • Choose a subject you'd like to learn more about.
  • On page 2 of the list of articles, The Music of Māori Chant has interesting information about the types, melody, and performance of chants.


Mōteatea is a page from Māori Television that has video clips of performances and explanations on the origins and meanings of traditional waiata.

  • Choose an episode you'd like to watch.
  • Each video clip is about 25 minutes long.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Collections

Museum of New New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand’s national museum located in Wellington. The collections cover Arts, History, Taonga Māori, Pacific Cultures, and Natural History.

  • Enter 'taonga puoro' in the search box at the top of the page.
  • Find the article Māori musical instruments.
  • This article talks about what taonga puoro were originally used for and the different types of instruments.

SOUNZ blog

SOUNZ has a growing collection of New Zealand music resources including Māori music. Funders include NZ On Air, Creative NZ, and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori the Māori Language Commission. It includes videos about taonga puoro.

  • Go to the Resources menu and select Taonga Puoro.
  • Select the education series Introduction to Taonga Puoro.
  • There are a range of videos that talk about different taonga puoro, the sounds they make, their whakapapa, and significance to Māori.

Māori music today

The playing of traditional Māori musical instruments or taonga puoro became rare after the settlers arrived in New Zealand. After a hui in 1991, Hirini Melbourne, Richard Nunns, Brian Flintoff, and others started work to revive these instruments. Now many popular New Zealand musicians use them in their work.

Radio New Zealand

This site is New Zealand's public radio service on New Zealand news, current affairs, Pacific, Te Ao Māori, sport, and business.

  • Enter 'Māori music' in the search box.
  • The He Ara Pūoro collection is a collaboration between Richard Nunns and Radio New Zealand.
  • Select the instrument you want to learn more about.
  • Listen to the audio clips to hear the sound and description of one of the Māori instruments in Richard's collection.
Tips: Some websites have .au, .nz, .uk or other codes in their url. This can tell you which country this website comes from eg .au is from Australia or .nz is from New Zealand. You can check the About Us link on the website for more information.

Tāmata Toiere

This site is an ongoing project by Te Ipukarea (The National Māori Language Institute). It has information about waiata and haka and includes lyrics. It also has translations and explanations giving context and background information.

Māori Artists

This page is part of the website. It lists popular Māori singers and groups, which includes a brief biography, top albums, top tracks, and similar artists.

  • You can browse this site using the menu at the top of the page.
  • Choose either Overview, Artists , Albums , or Tracks .
  • Or use the search bar to look for an artist or song title eg 'Anika Moa'.
  • The page Anika Moa gives you the choice to read about her life, find out about her music, or listen to her music.
Tips: Some websites have advertisements (or ads) which ask us to buy something or tell us to ‘click here’. It’s best to ignore these ads and focus on the information we’re looking for.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on all things New Zealand including art. It connects you to reliable digital collections of images, audio, videos, and articles from different websites.

  • Enter 'Māori music' into the search box.
  • You can group results by Images, Articles, Audio, Videos and more.
  • Watch the video Poi E that spent 22 weeks on the music charts in New Zealand in 1984.
  • Read the article Feature - Massey Implementing Māori Values about including kaupapa Māori (Māori principles) into teaching music at university.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.


There are lots of books about Māori society and history which include chapters or articles about Māori music and instruments. Check with your school or local public library to see what they have.

Here are some recommended titles:

SCIS no. 5354316
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