Telling the old story in new song

January 17, 2017

A tune telling the story of peaceful protests at Parihaka township has been reworked, with its first public performance at a service in the Interim Cathedral on November 5.

Musician Rob Green was part of New Plymouth band The Orange & Green back in 1991 when the city was celebrating its sesquicentennial.

Commissioned to produce a cassette tape, it included the song ‘Parihaka’ which the group had recorded in 1990.

Fellow band member Grant Dawson penned the words and at the time he wrote of just Te Whiti o Rongomai. (Other band members were Rob’s brother Dennis and Don Boyd.)

Kiwi icon Tim Finn released his chart topping song, also called Parihaka, in 1989 and while the Taranaki ‘Parihaka’ wasn’t as famous as the Finn ‘Parihaka’, it received approval from kuia.

“We presented it and played it [at Parihaka] and one of the kuia said, ‘it’s better than those bloody Finn brothers have done!”

At the time it was Rob’s first trip to the coastal settlement.

Four years ago he took the song back to Parihaka, experiencing an “overwhelming sense of shame,” when contemplating the devastation wrought by colonial forces in 1881.

But Māori leaders suggested that was a wasted emotion, saying: “You weren’t there, you are not responsible, acknowledge what’s happened – now let’s work together.”

The updated version weaves in the role played by fellow prophet Tohu Kakahi. It’s been sung a few times, including at Parihaka.

Its performance at the November 5 service was the first public occasion, says Rob, who notes there is now interest in recording it.

In the meantime he’s happy for others to read the words, and contemplate the story it tells.

* When he’s not delving around in early Taranaki history Rob is a stalwart of local band Shaskeen Reel, established almost 20 years ago.

Parihaka –
Song by Grant Dawson – (revised by Rob and Dennis Green)

 In 1881 the Taranaki sun

On Parihaka Pa dawned warm and red

An army marched away to arrest two men that day

Not because of what they did but what they said.


Tohu and Te Whiti I don’t know what to say

You bravely faced a thousand guns and didn’t turn away

You preached Love instead of War until your dying day

And our fathers knew the shame of Parihaka

The soldiers marched in line for battle it was time

The children sang to bayonets in the sun

With faces red with shame they called out their names

As Tohu and Te Whiti stood as one.

With a hard and bitter voice Bryce said you’ve got no choice

The time for talk has passed now you must fight

In the name of God what for – we’re not going to start a war

It’s Māori land. To take it – you’ve no right

Word was sent with speed of the army’s daring deed

How they battled with a fierce and deadly foe

Filled with arrogance and pride, thinking God was on their side

They took the land that we now claim to own.

At the Pa among the hills the voices echo still

Of the Prophets and the children at their games

The sound of marching drums of soldiers and their guns

Ask his children why that mountain cries for shame.


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