Song 5: Pokarekare

SONG: Pokarekare

ARTIST: Ana Hato

YEAR: 1929

Listen to it here:


Pokarekare is a Maori love song that was probably composed communally around 1914. An east coast Maori composer, Paraire Tomoana claims to have written the song, and was the one to polish it up and publish the words in 1917. This claim has been disputed back and forth ever since, but the descendants of Tomoana still retain the rights to the song today. 

The words were written in Maori and later translated to English. The original Maori words have remained unchanged, but there are a lot of different versions of the English words. The one big difference between the original and the polished up version is that the original was in triple time, and the polished version is in duple time. 

This song’s popularity is so huge in New Zealand that it’s considered the country’s unofficial national anthem. The version we are listening to is the first commercially recorded version of this song and features the voice of Ana Hato, backed by violin, cello, piano, and backing vocals by Hato’s cousin, Deane Waretini. 


Hato sang this and other Maori songs at a tourist village – Whakarewarewa. She was “discovered” here and eventually sang for the Duke and Duchess of York when she was only 20. Not much is written about Hato’s private life. She had a very short lived first marriage, and a second marriage where her husband died (fighting in WWII). Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer at age 37, and after fighting the disease for 8 years, died at age 45. 


New Zealand soldiers fighting in the Korean war introduced this song to South Korea where it gained a lot of popularity, eventually getting Korean lyrics and a Korean title. 


Kia ora to our Kiwi family!  I’ve heard the song plenty of times, (I think I even learned it in this dubious music ensemble I used to be a part of) and I’m not super jazzed about this version, probably because it sounds so dated.  Hato sounds good, but damn that guy harmonizing wants his voice to be HEARD.  I think maybe the key it’s in is doing them a disservice as well.


This is such a weird thing to review. This kind of music is not my thing, and it’s also interesting to listen to recordings before the era of mixing and mastering. You can tell that Hato has a pretty powerful voice, as does her cousin. But it does feel like everyone in this recording is fighting to be heard. Still, Hato’s talent can’t be denied, and the combination of instruments is interesting and pretty well balanced. 

Average mark out of 10:

Holly: 6/10

Kelly: 5.5/10

Other notable versions of this song:

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Prince Tui Teka 

Listen with us!

Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:

Published by Kelly

What I like: Music, travel, coffee, beer, makeup and photography! My gear: Canon EOS 60D and 18-200mm lens. Where call home: Vancouver, BC, Canada Photography Experience: Very amateurish.

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