The song Pokarekare Ana was written in about 1913 or 1914 as a group composition
by unknown Maori soldiers in a military camp on the North Island of New Zealand awaiting
their posting to Europe - where they would endure some of the harshest and bloodiest
conditions of the whole war as engineers digging the trenches for the Sommes and
Although the song was originally in three-four time its popularity grew greatly after
1917, when P H Tamoana (who was later to become Director of Music for the New Zealand
Army) re-arranged it into four-four, and used it with his concert party touring New
Zealand to raise funds for the war effort.
Also at about this time, the song acquired the lyrics that many know today, telling
of a young mans’ yearning to cross the stormy waters that separate him from his true
love. These lyrics, almost certainly be Tamoana, are purportedly those relating to
his own courtship in 1912 of Kuini Raerena.
In the 1920’s, and again in the early 1930’s, Tamoana produced updated versions of
his original arrangement, which were published in New Zealand and elsewhere, and
helped the song to become even more popular.
Another World War carried the song even further, and its continued performance was
assured by Kiwi’s the world over.
Encapsulating, as it does, the longing to be back in the arms of loved ones, the
song has become a favourite with New Zealander’s and Australians away from home,
and to many is seen as New Zealand’s unofficial anthem.
In performance very often only the first two verse-choruses are sung, and it is a
firm favourite with schools, as there are actions which can go along with the music.
If you happen to know the actions, please let me know, and I’ll post them onto this
For a more detailed history, try John Archer’s excellent web-site on New Zealand
Folk Song, here: