Monday, July 20
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.