Three traditional clay musical instruments on a bed of pampas grass

Clay is my material of choice in recreating taonga pūoro because of its aesthetic beauty, softness to the touch and crispness of sound as a flute. When fired, clay changes in composition to being stonelike and thus enters the fossil record, this means it is ideal for potentially preserving our traditions for coming generations.

Ancestral taonga pūoro laid dormant for many decades and were all but forgotten. This was due in part to issues of colonialism and occupation experienced by early indigenous peoples of Aotearoa and perhaps too the attraction to western modes of musical expression.

At the time of early occupation taonga of all kinds were seen as collectable objects and appeared in museums and private collections around the world. Because of this their original purposes and contexts were lost, albeit only for a time. It is now a growing pool of knowledge that I have attempted to contribute to since 2014 in the way the instruments are made and how they are heard.

Each taonga has been given its own scale of tuning. Amongst them you will find scales that are bright and uplifting and others that are gentler in tone for uses such as in meditation, prayer or lullaby.

The uku-hōkiokio are played cross-blown with the nostril.
The uku-kōauau are played cross-blown with the lips.
They each serve their own useful purpose to the player and the ones who are fortunate to hear their song.

The embellishments adorn the taonga pūoro and allude to Māori values such as whakapapa (genealogy) and mauri (the principle of life) yet the true charm of these musical treasures are known only when their voices can be heard.


Nga mihi


You can find Keil's taonga pūoro here