AUTHENTIC MAORI CHANT
To avoid any appearance of commercialising the songs, Dr McLean has declined to accept payment for his work in preparing this series.
Earlier writers have generally described pao as ‘ditties’, probably meaning to imply by this that the purpose of such songs was less serious than that of waiata, oriori and other song types. Some support for this view comes from the fact that the term pao is today often applied to non-traditional songs with European type melodies. The term ‘ditty’ however means simply a song or words to be sung and so could be applied equally well to all songs. Probably there is no single English term that will fit all pao, though ‘entertainment song’ or ‘topical song’ come closest.
It might be noted that the term paopao means gossip, and many pao are in fact gossip songs whose texts treat the love life of their subjects in very direct and often slanderous terms. Pao of this kind are mostly sung simply for entertainment, buy there are other kinds which, like waiata, can be sub-classified according to subject or according to purpose. The pao whaiaipo concern love, the pao poroporoaki are songs of farewell sung typically at the tangi ceremony on the last night before the burial, and the pao whakautu is an answer to a taunt.
As with waiata, pao are often used as an aid to speech making. One Taranaki man known to the writer, for example, never sings pao in isolation, but only to illustrate points of historyx.
Unlike waiata, pao were, and are still, composed in extempore fashion. At least five examples of pao amongst the writer's recordings are known to have been composed in this way and three were composed spontaneously at the time of recording. Other examples of spontaneous composition were recorded that involved waiata rather than pao, but these occurred because the singers forgot their words and made up the rest rather than break the song. Karanga and pao are the only song types known to the writer which are typically composed in this way.
In contrast with the long verses of waiata, the verses of pao are only two lines long. Each verse is first sung solo by the composer and is then supposed to be repeated by the chorus while the soloist thinks of the next couplet. Even when a pao is later performed without chorus, the verses are generally each sung twice.
Pao differ in musical style according to area. The transcription with this article should not therefore be taken as characteristic of pao style generally, but only of pao from the Ngati Tuwharetoa area. Waikato pao resemble it, but those from Taranaki, for example, differ markedly.
Very great differences in musical style exist between pao and other song types such as waiata but these are mostly too technical to be considered here. Generally it may be said that the range of pao from lowest not to highest is greater than other song types, there are more notes, and the overall melodic movement descends towards the final note instead of moving more or less equally above and below a central intoning note.
One important characteristic of pao style, at least in the Ngati Tuwharetoa area, is that it is very difficult to perform. Consequently, capable singers are now very few. One reason for this is the abundance of rapid ornament in pao. This ornament is shown in the accompanying transcription by means of small notes which take their time from the large note to which they are tied.
The singer of the transcribed pao was Para Iwikau of Tokorangi who recorded for the writer on 21st August 1962. She belongs to Ngati Whititama sub of Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe.