Tongan composers spelled out the name of their beloved in their song lyrics

'Oku 'i lalo he ngata'anga 'o e pēsi' ni ha fakamatala faka-Tonga ki he talanoa' ni.

Tongan punakes or composers, choreographer and musicians, composed songs to tell of their love or someone else’s love to young women or men.

Apart from the selection of lyrics and music, they used various  patterns to identify the lover or young women for whom the songs were composed.

Among these patterns was the practice of putting the letters of her name in the first line of each verse.

One of Tonga’s well-known composers, the late Feke Tutuʻila Malupō, used this type of pattern in his songs.

Some time in the 1930s he composed a song many called ‘Pehe Ange Mai,’ or ‘Were It Still Dawn.’

The song was composed for a chiefly young girl named Hepisipa Tuʻipulotu Kakala Pakileata Fohe Guttenbeil. In her youth she was widely known as Paki (from Pakileata) while she was enrolled at the nun’s boarding school at ‘Ahopanilolo in Maʻufanga.

The song has four verses and Malupō used the letters of her name, Paki, to start every verse of the song.

It was not clear who asked Malupō to compose the song, but one source claimed it was a member of the nobility.

The nobleman was ageing while Paki was young and still at school.

The song explains how the lover complained to himself  that he was getting old and wishing he was still young so he could court and wed the young girl.

Paki’s daughter, Yvette Guttenbeil, told Kaniva News she had been told that in her youth her mother was a good looking woman who had long hair and was known for her smiling face.

Yvette said her mother was born in 1923 and died in 2011 at the age of 88.

The tune:

You can find the link to the song below. It was first recorded by string band while the link below is a re-record in modern style of music.

One of the methods used by the Tongan punakes to compose the music of their new songs was to re-arrange a melody of an existing song they like.

They just hummed the tune while playing an instrument or worked on the melody, re-arranging it to create a new tune. Mostly they re-arranged foreign songs.

A Kaniva News inquiry found that  Malupō re-arranged the hymn tune ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’ the lyrics of which were written by Joseph M. Scriven in 1855 to comfort his mother who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada.

The lyrics were put to music by Charles Crozat Converse in 1868 and it eventually became one of the most well-known Christian hymns.

It was brought to Tonga when the late Dr Egan Moulton established the Free Wesleyan Church’s Tupou College in 1886. Moulton kept the music, but translated the lyrics  into Tongan and it is known as ‘Monū e Ka ko Ha Monū.’

The lyrics: 

Pehe ange mai ‘oku kei pongipongi

Ke u tuli e mafua siʻoku loto ni

Mafuli e Kaniva pea u ‘iloʻi

Kuo launoa si’ete toe holi

Amusia mu’a siʻa uini ua

Mo e ‘ea haufano ‘i ‘olunga

Angi e Tonga anga e lulunga

Neʻineʻi hala ‘ete fakaʻutoʻuta

Kulukona kumi mai pe ‘oku ‘i fe

‘E te fika ‘uluaki ‘i he kolope

Ne u siutaka peá u toki ‘iloʻi

Ko hoto meʻite ngalu tuku koe ‘i onopooni

I sa siʻete fakaʻamu ‘o ka efiafi

Ki he ‘ete nusi mo ‘ete lolo naʻati

‘Ahopanilolo ‘oku ne ‘alaha ai

Fangufangumohe kae māvaetangi


Were it still dawn

So I could pursue the desires of my heart

As the milky way turns I realise

That the yearning of my heart are in vain

Oh blessed double wind

And the cool breeze from above

South wind blows, westerly wind blows,

No wonder why my discernment was mistaken

Kulukona search for where

Is my first choice in the globe

I have flown afar and thus discovered

That you are my last consolation of modern times.

Alas I long as the sun sets

For my nusi and my scented oil

‘Ahopanilolo sends its fragrance

And awakens me to my heart rendering departure.

For more information

Monu e Ka ko Ha Monu.’

Pehe ange mai

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