I intend to publish a music themed blog post on Mondays, hence the title. I doubt that it will be every Monday – I want it to be a pleasure, not a chore. We’ll see what eventuates. Here is the first Musical Monday post.
Tomorrow, the 5th of November marks the 140th anniversary of the invasion of Parihaka by government troops, armed constabulary and militia volunteers. It’s a shameful blot on our history and shouldn’t be forgotten. It still seems that many, perhaps most, Kiwis are unaware of the event . Is Aotearoa New Zealand the only nation where the teaching of its history is considered optional?
That a community founded on Christian pacifist ideals should be destroyed because it was an impediment to the goals of European settlers and the government of the day speaks volumes to the attitude of most settlers at that time. Parihaka was a large town (for that era in NZ), thriving, modern (the first town in NZ with street lighting, the second with pumped water reticulation), very open, the centre for a large, mainly Māori, community. And that seems to be it’s major “problem”. It wasn’t “for the settlers, by the settlers, of the settlers, and to hell with the Māori”.
I learnt of Parihaka’s history as a child in the mid to late 1950s. I guess I was seven or eight at the time, perhap nine. My sources were from my school teacher, a Pākehā with a keen history of New Zealand, and An elderly Māori Woman who lived on the section (property) behind ours. She would have been well into her nineties, perhaps older, and had lived through the Taranaki Land Wars – another shameful blot on our history that preceded the incident at Parihaka, and many ways a precursor of what was to come.
Wikipedia provides a reasonably accurate although impersonal story of Parihaka, but fails to capture the “essence” of the story as I heard it, especially from our neighbour. After some sixty-five years, my memory of the details I learnt at that time are incomplete at best, but I do remember what I felt. It’s often claimed that autistic people are unable to be empathetic, but I can assure you that they way I heard the story told, it was as though I had personally lived in Parihaka in the months and years before and after the the destruction of that community.
WordPress, in its “wisdom” will not allow me to embed and publish my preferred version music video of Parihaka. I can embed it in draft mode but not publish it. It’s a 1989 music video performed by the writer/composer, Tim Finn, accompanied by The Herbs. You can view it here:
I’ve also embedded a Youtube video clip below the lyrics for the benefit of those who prefer to remain on this WordPress page. There seems to be a few minor changes in the lyrics, including the dropping of the name of one of the Parihaka leaders, Tohu, pepper has become salt, and dreamed has become watched, but the essential message remains the same.
Lyrics to Parihaka
My friend, My friend, I hate to see you suffer, Events conspire to bring us to our knees, My friend, my friend, you've taken this the wrong way, Rise up, defend yourself, never give in, Look to the sky, the spirit of Te Whiti, The endless tide is murmuring his name. Tohu, Te Whiti will never be defeated, And even at the darkest hour, Their presence will remain. I'll sing to you the song of Parihaka. Te Whiti he used the language of the spirit, Then stood accused, the madman and his dream, They saw the train go roaring through the tunnel, They heard the voice travel on the magic wire, But they loved the silence of the river, They dreamed the dog pissed on the cannon's wheel. Tohu, Te Whiti they'll never be defeated, Not even at the darkest hour, Their presence will remain. I'll sing for you the song of Parihaka. One day you'll know the truth, They can't pull out the roots, Come and take me home, To weep for my lost brother. They gather still, the clouds of Taranaki, His children's children wearing the white plume, So take me for the sins of these sad islands, The wave still breaks on the rock of Rouhotu. And when you taste the pepper that's on your pudding, And when you taste the sugar in your soup, Tohu, Te Whiti, they'll never be defeated, Even at the darkest hour, Their presence will remain, I'll sing for you the song of Parihaka, Come to Parihaka, Weep for my lost brother, The spirit of nonviolence, Has come to fill the silence, Come to Parihaka.
It’s kind of ironic that we Kiwis commemorate Guy Fawkes Day as enthusiastically as the English, perhaps more so, but most of us fail to realise that we have something more significant to remember on that date – the courage of all those at Parihaka who in the face of hatred and violence stood firm to their principles of peace and love. Even now, more than a hundred years later, we are yet to truly understand that might doesn’t mean right. It’s too important to forget. Parihaka is a powerful reminder.