What is Kapa Haka?
Kapa haka is commonly used to describe:
- a Maori cultural performing group; and
- a modern day performance of traditional and contemporary adaptations of Maori waiāta (song), moteatea, poi and haka.
Kapa Haka is an avenue for Māori people to express their language, culture and heritage through song and dance. It is performed by cultural groups or individuals either in formal or informal settings, on marae, at schools, or kapa haka festivals.
Kapa Haka is heavily influenced by traditional forms of Māori pastimes; haka, mau rākau (Māori weaponry), poi (tiny ball attached to rope or string) and mōteatea (traditional chants or dirges).
Kapa Haka Performance
A modern Kapa Haka performance can be competitive or non-competitive. It can be performed by any number of people, men and women, young and old.
Music for Kapa Haka is primarily vocal and sung in te reo Māori (Māori language). The musical instruments generally used in Kapa Haka performances are the guitar, the pūtatara (conch shell), the sound of the poi and rākau and body percussion.
A Kapa Haka performance is made up of several disciplines:
Group dynamic singing used to warm up the vocal cords, example being chorals and hymns.
A choreographed entrance onto the performance area. Can be used to announce the arrival of the group; pay respects to the host or other groups performing, comment on a social issue of the day, or commemorate an individual or element of Māoridom.
Usually traditional chants or dirges, sung in a style reminiscent of pre-colonial Māori singing. Mōteatea come in a variety of forms, including laments, lullabies and songs about revenge, anger and love.
Typically referred to as “action songs”, where arm and hand movements particularly the wiri (trembling of hands), the face, the eyes, and the body combine to bring form to the words being sung.
Involves the twirling of a ball or balls attached to a length of cord in rhythm to sung accompaniment. The poi originates from the pre-colonial practice of training with poi to improve agility in battle. Today poi is used to showcase the grace, beauty and allure of the women.
The war dance or challenge - an aspect of Māori culture embraced by all New Zealanders to become a world renowned expression of New Zealand identity. Modern day haka are vocal performances, involving aggressive or challenging facial expressions, body movements and demeanor.
A choreographed exit off the performance area. Used to farewell the audience or make a final point before departing.