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What is the Haka?

In this video, Maori descendants perform the traditional Haka dance at a wedding. Although the dance may seem silly and strange, it’s actually a serious and respected dance that was passed down from generation to generation.

The Maori tribe is and an ancient tribe that originated in New Zealand. Their traditions are still a crucial part of New Zealand’s culture.

Deep in the heart of New Zealand lays the remanence of an ancient tribe called the Maori tribe. Much of their history and culture has disappeared over the years.

However, their most famous tradition is known as the Haka dance. Men and women slap their thighs and chant the ancient Maori words.

The Haka in Maori Legend

Here are several Maori legends that give a hint to where the Haka dance came from. One, in particular, is given more credibility than the rest. According to this legend, the sun god, Ra had a summer main named Hine-Raumati. She made the air shake and quiver on hot summer days. This is why the Maori shake and quiver while performing the Haka

Maori History

The earliest recording of the Haka involves a chief named Tinirau. Tinirau and his women wanted revenge on a priest named Kae who killed his pet whale. Tinirau sent his women to find Kae, but all they knew about him was that his teeth were crooked. When the women arrived at Kae’s tribe, they performed the haka.

According to the legend, the Haka made the air dance and quiver so much, that the tribe’s people all smiled and revealed their teeth. Tinirau’s women were able to identify Kae’s infamous crooked smile.

Different types of Haka:

Peruperu Haka

The Peruperu Haka is the war Haka. The Maori tribe performed this dance before going to battle.

The dance traditionally calls for weapons at hand, exaggerated leaps, and stomps. The tribe also open their eyes wide and stick their tounges out. They do this to intimidate the opponent while evoking the god of war.

Negeri Haka

The Negeri Haka is mean to motivate both warriors and performers. It calls for more free dance moves to allow the performers to feel like they’re expressing themselves. No weapons are used for this Haka.

Manawa Haka

Just like the Negeri Haka, the Manawa Haka is performed with more free movements. However, the Maori tribe performs this Haka at funerals or after someone dies.

Who Can Perform the Haka

Anyone is allowed to perform Haka dances. The only rule is that those who perform this dance must perform it with respect and in a serious manner. Haka dancers are both male and female. However, there are some Haka’s designated to specific genders.

Ka Mate Haka

The most renown Haka is the Ka Mate Haka. The national New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, perform it before a match.

In 1820 the war leader of the Ngati Toa Tribe, Te Rauparaha, composed the Ka Mate Haka.

He fled from his enemies and found refuge on the shore of Lake Rotoaira. There he his in a pit and chanted the Ka Mate until his enemies never found him. The main verse goes as follows:

Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
T?nei te tangata p?huruhuru
N?na nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te r?
?, upane! ka upane!
?, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra

Translated into English:
‘Tis death! ’tis death! (or: I may die) ’Tis life! ‘tis life! (or: I may live)
’Tis death! ‘tis death! ’Tis life! ‘tis life!
This is the man
Who brought the sun and caused it to shine
A step upward, another step upward!
A step upward, another… the Sun shines!