From the recording Ki mua
The arrival of the missionaries marked a time of upheaval that destroyed much of the culture of the Pacific Islands. This song was inspired by what occurred in Tokelau where people were threatened with visits by gunboats if they didn’t accept the new faith.
Old songs and old dances were labeled as "evil" by the church who therefore proceeded to suppress them. These actions were motivated greatly by each missionary’s personal prejudices and dislikes of the customs and manners of each Island. Much of the old songs and old dances were lost at that point in time.
‘Vaka atua’ describes the many conflicts that occurred trying to accept these new beliefs while throwing aside the spiritual beliefs that had been held by them and their ancestors for thousands of years. One man, Foliga’s, reply to the first missionary in his land was "No, we already have our own true god in heaven" (represented in this song by "Tagaloa" Polynesian god of the sea).
"All their lesser evil customs you will endeavour to cast down,going in a state of nudity or nearly so, cutting or scratchingthemselves in seasons of grief - tattooing their bodies. Eatingraw fish, their lewd dances etc, but the greater evils will requireyour first attacks and then the smaller."(John Williams, LMS South Sea Letters, 1823, quoted in Gunson 1978: 319)
VAKA ATUA (Missionaries)
Lyrics & music - Opetaia Foa'i/traditional
(Traditional Tokelau chant)
keina tu mai tao kae fakatonu ko to ta ho
keina tu mai tao kae fakatonu ko to ku Aliki
ko toku aliki Tui Tokelau
hau he matagi ke moli au
Tui o nuku Tui o vavau
hau he matagi keina tu iao ioa lava
Written by Opetaia Foa'i
ua fa’asa uma le faiga o pese f’a’apenaua fa’asa uma le faiga o siva fa’apenaua fa’asa fo’i le faiga o le tatauua fa’asa fo’i le aiga ole i’a mata te tali nei a foligate matou Atua i te lagite matou Aliki i te lagi e ui lava kua puli koutouuma toku igoa e he mafai na puli kou tou e tagaloa
you are forbidden from songs like thatyou are forbidden from dances like thatyou are forbidden from making tattoos you are forbidden from eating raw fishfrom this day forward you will sing these songs
this was Foliga's answerour true god is in the skyour true god is in the sky Ioa just Ioa (name of a god) Tagaloa replyeven though you have all forgotten my nameyou will never be forgotten by tagaloa
© Spirit of Play Productions/Traditional