Monday, July 27

Te Hiva Nui Action Song at Punanga Nui Market

Well, Te Hiva Nui have now flown off to Europe for their performances at various folk dance festivals over the next month or so.
They put on a really spectacular last fundraising performance at their home base - Staircase Restaurant in Rarotonga. The place was packed and included a couple of government ministers and their wives as well as other locals and tourists. I’ll get some video of that online later but in the meantime here’s another item from their recent show at Punanga Nui Market.
This one is an action son – kapa rima.
‘Cook Islands Culture’ has this to say.
Kapa rima (action song)
A story-telling dance, it emphasises the movements of arms and hands rather than those of the lower body. Dancers sing songs accompanied by a band of musicians, usually with ukuleles, guitars and light drumming. This type of dancing, which may be performed by a solo dancer or a troupe, is primarily for an audience. Dance actions in a troupe are usually uniform.

Saturday, July 25

Te Hiva Nui drum dance – ‘ura pa’u

Cook Islands drumming and dancing is famous throughout the Pacific, justifiably so.
Drumming is an important part of the dance, particularly for setting the tempo. ‘Ura pa’u is pronounced (roughly!) oora pow.
The book ‘Cook Islands Culture’ describes it:
“ ‘Ura pa’u (drum dance)
Usually with a faster tempo than kapa rima (action songs), with emphasis on lower body movement. Music is provided by a full ensemble of drums. Drum dances actions by a group are uniform and performance is intended for an audience.”
This is one of the styles people associate most closely with Polynesian dancing. As you can see in the video, it is fast and furious, non-stop action all the way. The boys move their legs in a way that must be great for toning inner thigh muscles (fitness fans take note) and the girls swing their hips as though they’ve got elastic spine and hip joints.
Takes a lot of practice but the end result is awesome!

Monday, July 20

Te Hiva Nui Ute

When many people think of Cook Islands dancing it’s the drum dance (‘ura pa’u) or action song (kapa rima) that spring to mind.
The ute (pronounced ‘ootay’ not ‘yoot’ which is short for ‘utility vehicle’ – the Australian term for a pickup truck) is somewhat different. In fact it’s not a dance; it’s a joyous chant or celebratory song with drum and string band backing. Everybody joins in the singing and while individuals may dance for a while it is informal.
The book ‘Cook Islands Culture’ describes it as follows:
“Ute (celebratory song)
Although school children sing ute in Schools Culture Festival competitions, the one style of singing is still largely the prerogative of older people. The traditional ute was a joyful love chant-song or 'imene akaepaepa (song of praise) performed by a group of men and women in a celebratory mood. Nowadays, ute are composed about a wider range of topics. Ute today is different from that of 30 to 40 years ago. According to older Rarotongan exponents of ute, the modern ute incorporates more of the elements commonly associated with 'imene tuki, such as tuki (grunts) and perepere (singing descant), than was considered acceptable years ago. This they blame on the loss of contact with the art for a period of over 20 years when a church ban was in place. Consequently, the new generation of composers that followed, did not learn the techniques nor recognise the peculiarities, which made traditional ute different from 'imene tuki. Variations exist between the islands, however, the purpose of ute is the same on all islands - it is a celebratory song to be sung in a party atmosphere. It would be unseemly to perform ute in churches or at funerals. Ute today is performed mainly on stage during the Constitution Celebrations or at community functions.”
This ute is a new one composed specially for Te Hiva Nui’s overseas tour.

Thursday, July 16

Te Hiva Nui at Punanga Nui Market

One of Rarotonga’s excellent dance groups, Te Hiva Nui, is heading for Europe soon to take part in several folk dance festivals.
Leaving on 25 July, they head first for the northeast of England where the Billingham International Folklore Festival is an annual event. From 1 – 8 August they’ll be performing alongside dancers from the Caribbean, Egypt, Mongolia, Peru, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Thailand.
While they’re in that part of the world they’re planning a side trip to the North Yorkshire scout jamboree in Harrogate. The Cook Islands are named after Yorkshireman Captain James Cook (although not by him – he called them the Hervey Islands). Mind you, he’s associated with Whitby which is on the coast rather than the inland Harrogate and Billingham is much closer to Whitby but the scouts are at Harrogate so that’s where they’re going (on 29 July I think).
After England the group travel to France for the Confolens Festival from 12 – 17 August. Confolens is in the Poitou-Charente region and the festival of music and folk dance features 15 to 20 folklore groups and 600 musicians each year, representing 15 countries.
There will be parades, shows and concerts as well as street events. Around 200 to 300,000 spectators travel there each summer, and it sounds like a lot of fun. Check out more details here.
They’ll also be appearing at a festival in Switzerland before returning to Rarotonga at the end of August.
The travelling party of 21 includes seven male and seven female dancers as well as the musicians. They’ve been practicing hard with a whole raft of new dances and the new costumes are almost complete.
This video is from a fundraising performance at Punanga Nui Market. It was a great success and another one is planned for this Saturday. Their final show before leaving is an island night at the Staircase on Monday (20 July) when all the new dances and costumes will be ready. If you’re on Rarotonga make a point of checking them out. It’s well worth while.
And if anyone in England, France or Switzerland gets the chance to visit these festivals – go for it and don’t forget to give us some feedback. Fans in the Cook Islands would love to hear all about it.
The next few videos will be longer excerpts from the dances at last week’s fundraiser.

Monday, July 13

Cook Islands Football Association’s new grandstand opened

Guest blog by Ulamila Wragg, CIFA Media

Cook Islands Football Association’s 500-seat covered grandstand with international standard changing room facilities, was opened on Friday by Prime Minister Mr Jim Marurai and FIFA Vice-President Mr Reynald Temarii in the presence of CIFA President Mr Lee Harmon.
Harmon in his speech said that in the last nine years football had brought in $12million to the country. In recognition Mr Harmon was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, the first for any Cook Islander.
“This inauguration marks the second and third phase of FIFA’s Goal Programme set by FIFA nine years ago aimed at elevating national football associations around the globe,” Mr Harmon said.
“Although CIFA has not hosted any major sporting event, our existence has brought into this country over 12-million dollars in the last nine years. As you can see football is not just a sport, it helps the economy and it is a tool to build better and stronger communities.
“This inauguration marks the dawn of a new day for the Cook Islands, a new day for our people and for football. These facilities will give our young people the opportunity to achieve their full potential at national and international levels.”
Mr Temarii, who is also president of the regional Oceania Football Confederation, told the 100 plus guests, that statistics show that the Cook Islands has a high percentage of involvement with the sport compared to other countries around the globe.
“This is a great achievement when compared to the statistics of other country.”
The Cook Islands has 8-percent (1200) of its total population registered with the sport while Spain has 6-percent, New Zealand 6-percent and France 4-percent.
Mr Temarii praised the consistent hard work put into the game of football by CIFA president, Lee Harmon.
“These objectives were shared with me by the CIFA president, Lee Harmon when we met 12 years ago for the first time in Auckland, as young presidents in the oceania confederation. he did not stop and with the support of a very committed executive committee together they have achieved. Congratulations”, Temarii said.
Cook Islands Prime Minister, the Honourable Jim Marurai, was also on hand to officially open the facilities.
Then followed the unveiling of the plaque, the blessing by Pastor Eliu Eliu and the ceremonial cutting of banana leaves before guests enjoyed a tour of the various facilities.
From humble beginningsThe official ground-breaking on what is now the ‘Home of Football' took place on 16 April 2003. With coastal land scarce and traditionally owned by families and handed down through generations, officials had spent an exhaustive two years securing the low-lying plot of land and several subsequent months implementing underground irrigation and drainage systems.
Less than a year later on 2 April 2004, the doors of CIFA's new home were flung open. The Cook Islands football community finally had a centralised facility, an important step for a country made up of island groups scattered as far as 1200km from Rarotonga.
CIFA's administrative offices were integrated into the new building and the association duly stepped up their activities, especially in the area of development. Cook Islands may be one of FIFA's smallest member associations with a mere 15,000 inhabitants, but it has an impressive track record of development programmes in a variety of areas including junior, youth and women's football, as well as coaching and refereeing.
With the completion of Goal III, the complex now has dressing rooms for players and officials, a spectator tribune with covered seating for 500 people as well as media rooms and PA capabilities.
All told, this complex is the football epicentre for the tiny Southern Pacific jewel. And in a country known as one of the most idyllic places in the world, it is only fitting there is now a picturesque home for 'the beautiful game.'
Read more about the opening on the FIFA website.

Friday, July 10

The changing face of Nikao beach, Rarotonga

The best beaches on Rarotonga are on the south side, along Muri lagoon, but Nikao on the northwest is certainly an interesting spot.
It stretches about a kilometre, from the sea wall at the end of the airport to Black Rock, the legendary leaping off place of the spirits of the dead.
It’s made of coarse yellow sand with pieces of coral ranging from gravel-sized to large boulders, and the arrangement of sand and gravel changes every time we have extra high seas.
Black Rock is a large piece of basalt, an eroded reminder of Rarotonga’s volcanic past. There’s a channel between the land and Black Rock itself. After really heavy weather like cyclones, the sand in the channel is scoured out and it makes a great platform for kids to jump from. Then tidal action gradually brings the sand back, diving’s out and it’s back to being used for swimming.
Cyclone Heta in 2004 hit Niue really badly. Niue’s about 1000km from Rarotonga and we escaped much damage but the high seas cleaned out the Black Rock channel beautifully as you can see from the video of kids playing there. Since then the sand has gradually returned and it’s now too shallow for jumping.
The Cook Islands’ five cyclones in February/March 2005 had a major effect on Nikao beach. Vegetation was trashed, several trees toppled and large bites were taken out of the land in a couple of places. The toilet block at the Nikao social centre was demolished (the so-called ‘social centre’ was once a building - it was demolished by cyclone Sally in 1987 but the remaining concrete pad kept the name).
Coral boulders and gravel covered most of the area after the cyclones but now much of that has moved along and the sand is back.
Looking on the bright side, the cyclones washed away a lot of the rubbish that accumulates on Black Rock and the beach. It’s a sad fact of life that bottles, tins, paper and various articles of clothing are discarded there (mainly by locals I’m sorry to say).
Hermit crabs are abundant all the time. At the moment there isn’t much bird life – the occasional heron, and brown noddies when the maito are plentiful.
From September to April there are also wandering tattlers and other visitors to our shores.
On fine holiday weekends Nikao is popular with local families but on weekdays, particularly in the morning and early afternoon, you can often have the beach to yourself.

Monday, July 6

Aussies beat Cook Islands league squad

The Australian Affiliated States league team was in Rarotonga last week to play a couple of games against the Cook Islands league squad.
The AAS is the best players from the Victorian, Western Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory leagues. The Cook Islands squad, called the President’s XIII, comprised the best local players – those eligible to play for the country in the forthcoming Pacific Mini Games. There’s a residency requirement for that so overseas-based Cookies don’t qualify.
The matches were billed locally as ‘tests’ but they weren’t really as the ASS isn’t a national side. Nevertheless it did the local players good to have two tough matches against quality opposition.
We lost both games, the first 20-38 and the second 10-18.
Cook Islands News reported after the first game:
“The local team worked hard to keep up with the Australian team earlier on in the match but lagged off in the final quarter of the game.Australia led 20-10 at the half time break.The superior fitness of the Australians saw them wear down the Cooks in the last quarter to score some very good tries to increase their lead and win the game 38-20.The Cooks had their chances to score and win the game but sloppy passes and poor defence around the ruck costs them the game.”
A few months out from the mini games you might think that local athletes would be pretty fit, after all, the squad’s been selected for a while. Still, in their defence, they haven’t played any other good teams so they won’t be match-ready and this was 13-a-side whereas it’ll be 9-a-side at the games.
The CINews report on the second game said:
“While the Cook Islands league team had visibly improved since their first match against the Australian Affiliated States team on Monday, they just couldn’t bury the Aussies when they had the chance.
The Cooks … were again defeated on Thursday 18-10.
The local boys certainly held their own with the score at 8-8 in the first half.
The team even led 10-8 for part of the game.
However, a lapse in concentration in the last 10 minutes of the game with some basic errors and missed opportunities allowed the Aussies to run in two quick tries to seal the game.
The local lads certainly matched the Aussies in the physical battle but just lacked that mental toughness to really bury the Aussies when they had the chance. However, it was certainly an awesome experience for many of the local boys playing their first international game.”

Friday, July 3

Drums of our Forefathers - Cook Islands dancing

All Cook Islands dancing is good to watch; the boys are dynamic and the girls graceful.
Most Cook Islanders, the ones who live here anyway, can get up and dance any time the mood takes them, but visitors should make sure they see an island night show while they are here.
‘Drums of our Forefathers’ at Highland Paradise is a musical history of Rarotonga from the time the ancestors arrived to the present day.
Legend tells of Polynesians sailing vaka (ocean-going canoes) from Avaiki – the ancestral and spiritual homeland. They settled on Rarotonga but over the years inter-tribal rivalry led to battles. There was cannibalism but it was mainly a ritual – eating a defeated enemy gave a warrior some of his strength and spirit. Dancing and chants were performed at special celebrations - the so-called grass skirts were made from the inner bark of trees.
The missionaries thought those costumes were a bit too exotic. They didn’t stop the local population dancing but made the guys wear long black pants under the skirts while the girls covered up with shorts.
The muumuu dress for women was also introduced by missionaries. It’s a long dress, often with a frill around the bottom and puffed sleeves. These days it’s made out of colourful pareu material and it’s probably the most popular dress style for both formal and less informal occasions. Well, maybe not for teeny-boppers but certainly for the more mature ladies.
Dance groups used to put on shows for visiting ships but tourism really got going when the international airport opened (in the early nineteen seventies I think).
Nowadays the groups have a variety of colourful costumes and choreographers are composing new dances all the time so Cook Islands culture is in good shape.
In fact, the Maeva Nui festival (usually held in July/August but it’s going to be later this year) is a cultural dance competition between Rarotonga villages and the outer islands. This is fiercely contested and with up to fifty performers on the stage at a time it’s quite a sight. But more on that later.