Voices in the Reo: Music, Community and Membership in a Rātana Brass Band
Author(s)Thomas, Helen (Nell)
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractThis study explores the brass bands of the Rātana community. Te Hāhi Rātana (the Rātana Church) is a Māori Christian church based in Aotearoa New Zealand. Between 1932 and 1984 Te Hāhi Rātana established seven brass bands, which today constitute an amateur brass movement with over eighty years of history and several hundred active band members around the country. Rātana brass bands are widely recognised as emblematic of the Rātana Church and associated political movement, yet the bands gain only passing mention in New Zealand music histories and reference works. This thesis presents the first in-depth research about Rātana brass bands. Based on fieldwork conducted over a one-year period, this thesis investigates Rātana brass banding in its community context. Taking a contemporary ethnographic approach, I explore aspects of symbolism, performance and membership, discussing some of the localised meanings and functions of the brass band in the Rātana context. The research presented in the thesis centred around interviews and interactions with members of one of seven Rātana brass bands, whose voices I incorporate into the text. Observations of the band members playing in church and marae contexts form the basis for narrative ethnographic descriptions and interpretive discussion. Drawing on ‘insider notions’ of community and banding, such as the idea of whānau (family), I explore the Rātana community and faith through the brass bands. This study considers some of the ways in which brass band music serves to bind and sustain the musical collectivities of the bands themselves, and the large, geographically spread, spiritual community of which they are a part.