Pūrerehua are wind instruments that are spun in a circular motion, usually above the head. They produce a whirring sound that varies depending on the size, shape and materials of the instrument and the speed with which it is spun. Pūrerehua can be made from a variety of materials including pounamu (NZ greenstone), bone and wood.
The flight pattern of some pūrerehua resemble that of the pūrerehuhu moth, from where they take their name. Rangorango is another name for the pūrerehua, taken from a special type of blowfly with the same name. The song of the pūrerehua is likened to the whirring sound of rangorango's wings as it hovers and darts. In Te Waka o Aoraki (the south island) they are named Hamumu Ira Kārara, which can be translated into English as 'the sounds that stir the lizards to life.' When played, the sound of pūrerehua can attract lizards, possibly because the vibrations are similar to a blowfly's flight, suggesting food for the lizard. Pūrerehua are said to have been used in times a scarcity to attract lizards as a source of food and they are also used by some to sing a farewell to the dead. They are well known as rain makers, causing tears of love to fall from the sky father Ranginui on his beloved Papatūānuku, the earth mother.
Pūrerehua are wind voices and come from Tāwhirimātea, the atua (spiritual entity) of the winds. The sometimes eerie sounds of the winds are acknowledged as messages from the spirit world. Sometimes pūrerehua produce unexpected sounds which are considered special as they are perceived as spirit voices joining in with the song. Māori tradition says that the spirit of the person playing the pūrerehua travels up the cord to create the sound, which then travels with the wind to take the words and dreams of the player to the listeners of the world. Therefore, pūrerehua are instruments for communicating to those within both the physical and spiritual realms. Pictured: Pūrerehua pounamu made by Jeremy Cloake, adorned with a whalebone toggle holding kāhu feathers, length 270mm.