Oriori are songs or chants that tell stories. They may mark important milestones in life such as pregnancy and birth, or be sung to soothe pēpi to sleep.

Tūpuna Parenting: Waiata oriori

Tūpuna Parenting: Waiata Oriori (transcript)

Traditional use of oriori

The late Amster Reedy (Ngāti Porou) researched how were traditionally used. He said that oriori can be a type of . They were used to bring a child into the world and to lull children to sleep.

Singing or chanting oriori to welcome pēpi into the ‘world of light’ is one of the tikanga Māori practices whānau can use during the birth of their pēpi.

In traditional Māori culture:

  • Oriori reinforced the purpose and spiritual nature of mokopuna, and their links to the and their spiritual helpers.
  • Motivational and inspirational oriori talked to mokopuna about desired behaviours. They were encouraging and uplifting, and were used as a socialisation tool.

Through repetition, oriori reinforced messages about desired qualities in mokopuna, and sometimes acknowledged what their needs might be.

Soothing baby with oriori

Studies have shown that newborns recognise songs that were sung to them during pregnancy.

Invite whānau to look the booklet Te Kākano, kaitiaki pēpi section on oriori with you. This reminds us that traditionally oriori told stories to children about their ancestors. But, any personal story can be turned into a special song or oriori for pēpi.

Talk with whānau about whether they’ve considered singing to their unborn child.

Conversation ideas

What songs are special to your whānau?
How important is music to you and your whānau?
Does anyone in the whānau sing or play an instrument?
What sort of music helps you go to sleep?
Have you ever thought of making up a song for your pēpi?

Creating whānau oriori

Whānau can write their own songs about whānau, ancestors and the kinds of values they want pēpi to have. They could write their own oriori for pēpi based on what’s important to them. Each parent might have different ideas on what they’d include. Recognising this and valuing each other’s contribution strengthens relationships.

Nā tō rourou, nā tōku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.

With your knowledge and my knowledge, we will thrive.

An oriori or chant doesn’t have to be too elaborate – it can be short with repeated phrases. It might help to write some ideas down to get things started.

Ideas for writing oriori

Here are some prompts to help whānau explore what to include in an oriori for their pēpi.

What is their maunga, awa, moana, iwi, marae?
What is their whakapapa? Who came before them, for example, mātua, koro and kuia, tīpuna – parents, grandparents, ancestors?
What were the achievements of their ancestors?
Are there any expectations for them that have been handed down from their ancestors?
How could they get guidance from tīpuna about their place in the world?
What do you want them to know about the world and their place in it?
What values do you want them to share?
What qualities do you wish for them?

Helpful resources for whānau