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Calm When You Passed By: Aotearoa Songs 1927​-​29

by Ana Hato and Deane Waretini



The north island of New Zealand was first populated by a few hundred people in the 13th century by Polynesian ocean-going people whose roots trace back more than 5,000 years to Taiwan. When the island was colonized by Great Britain at the start of the 19th century there were already about 100,000 people prospering on the island. After a few decades of peaceful coexistence, treaties between the British and the Māori regarding ecological-economic rights were encroached upon by the British leading to over two decades of uprisings and violence.

By the time Ana Hato was born Dec. 30, 1907 in a village called Whakarewarewa, two miles south of Rotorua, the period of war was passed but still in living memory. Her mother was from the Tūhourangi people; her father from Ngāti Whakaue. Both were singers, as was her cousin Deane Waretini (d. 1967), who later became her singing partner. The two of them worked as kids in the tourist trade resulting from the hot springs of the thermal region in their native land.

She was a talented athlete as a child and by the age of 16 was a sought-after singer and a member of a choir. While still a teenager, she participated in a tour of New Zealand organized by the guide and entertainer Mākereti Papakura (b. 1873; d. 1930) which included Hato's first visit to Australia.

Her first 14 recordings were made in February 1927 on the occasion of her performance for the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Albert, later George VI and his wife Elizabeth) by Australian engineers using slightly outdated acoustical (that is, pre-microphone) equipment. There was no electrical recording equipment in New Zealand yet. The seven discs made by the Parlophone label from those sessions were the first commercially released Māori recordings. Those and the 18 sides recorded at subsequent sessions she and her cousin made for Parlophone in Australia in 1929 sold many thousands of copies and stayed in print for over 20 years. The archivist Jonathan Dennis (b. 1953; d. 2002) produced a CD of 15 of her Parlophone recordings (and the three solos by Deane Waretini) along with 15 live and broadcast performances from 1930-51 in 1996 with the cooperation of the National Library of New Zealand. It remains available at: www.kiwipacific.com/product_info.php?products_id=133

She did not (or could not) capitalize on her success as a singer, but instead worked as a cleaner, laundress, and guide through the 1930s and 40s. She continued to sing publicly, often in aid of the Roman Catholic Church of which she was a committed member. During the Second World War, she gave fundraising performances for the war effort. Her second husband, a laborer called Pāhau Rāpōni, enlisted, became a prisoner of war, and died in German camp in 1942. A few years later she began to suffer from cancer which ended her life at the age of 45 on December 8, 1953

A decade later Deane Waretini wrote:
"Ana Hato was the greatest female singer of the Māori people. I myself became her partner but, whereas I could name many Māori male singers as good if not better than myself, I have yet to hear her equal. Although Ana and I were first cousins (her mother being my father's sister) we were vastly different. It became apparent early in music lessons that Ana was outstanding and she remained so for the rest of her life. [...] Ana never became a scholar though I was considered rather brilliant. [...] After four years at [high school], I suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent home. I tried to continue by going to night school but failed to really settle down.
"After living for several year in Auckland, I returned to Rotorua and joined the concert parties of the time. In 1926 I was married and though I had not become as yet a prominent singer, I was nevertheless being slowly pushed into the limelight. Ana, who lived all her life in Rotorua, was quickly displacing all previous sopranos and by 1926 was recognized as the leading prima donna.
"1926 [...] was the year in which Ana and I first became associated in singing. During the celebrations for their Royal Highnesses, the opportunity was taken to gather a group of Māori singers for the purpose of recording and in a a small and totally inadequate room our first records were made. They were followed by other records made in Australia.
"Poor Ana! [...]. Ana loved singing and she sang for the love of it. She was most unfortunate in the deaths of her husbands; one died serving overseas and the second predeceased her by some years.
"What more can be said? [...] Ana has been dead many years. It is my sincere prayer that the ability to introduce into their singing variations of tone which makes Maori singing unique is never lost to our race. The introduction of the European element into Maori singing is, I think, something to be deplored."


released May 1, 2022

Tracks 1-2 recorded in Rotorua, New Zealand, Feb. 1927
Tracks 3-16 recorded in Sydney, Australia, June 1929

Transfers, restoration, and notes by Ian Nagoski

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