Tongan extinct musical instruments revived as Language Week ends

Four extinct Tongan musical instruments were revived during a performance organised as part of the Tongan Language week in Glen Innes, Auckland on Saturday.

Professor Hūfanga ‘Ōkusitino Māhina, the Master of Ceremonies, said the Tongan ifi fangufangu (nose flute) was on the verge of extinction.

He said tuki pitu (bamboo beating), ‘utete (jaw harp) and mimiha (pan pipes) had been lost for some 200 years, but they had been able to bring them back to life again.

He said a new Fangufangu Mīnoa ‘o Tonga traditional group had been established and tasked with reviving these instruments.

The group’s music director, Tu’ifonualava Kaivelata, said the instruments they used for the performances were his own creations using kofe (bamboos) and papa (timber).

Tuʻifonualava said Professor Māhina, a founding member of the Fangufangu Minoa went to Europe recently to research in libraries about ancient Tongan instruments.

He discovered that European voyagers, including Captain Cook, who first arrived in Tonga in 1773 had pictures and accounts of these extinct instruments which were played to them when they arrived in the kingdom.

The performances on the last day of the Tongan Language week were conducted by the Kanokupolu cultural performance group and members of the Fangufangu Mīnoa led by Tuʻifonualava, Taniela Kaivelata, and Prof. Māhina.

An atmosphere of vela māfana was felt at the Te Oro studio while the performers entertained the guests with the instruments.

A nafa was beaten followed by the accompaniment of the mimihas and the fangufangu played by Taniela Kaivelata and three children. It was followed by a vocal accompaniment by the langitu’a, or singers who performed the songs led by Tu’ifonulava, while the musicians played according to the tune and lyrics of the music.

They performed the ‘O Lātū Lātū e, a part of a song from the Tongan ancient dance, me’etu’upaki or paddle dance.

In the last part of the performance Tu’ifonualava played the ‘utete. It was new to modern Tongan audiences and the listeners were surprised by its sound.

The performance drew some strong reactions from the audience with many calling out “mālie” (excellence).

The performance was implemented in the Tongan way of fakatautauelangi or stirring up the mālie spirit stage by stage from the beginning so when it reached the climax both the performers and the audience were in a euphoric mood or tau e langí.

The performance at the Glen Innes Te Oro centre also included mā’ulu’ulu, me’etu’upaki and solo dances led by choreographer Tukia and the Kanokupolu cultural group.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news