Epo i tai tai

Epo i tai tai ay

A beautiful and simple Maori fishing song to enjoy in the classroom. This song works well across Key Stage 2 and is relatively quick and easy to pick up. Children will understand about phrasing, add movement and vary dynamics. Extension work includes improvisation and composition.

Teaching process

Stand/sit in a circle for this lesson.

Teach the melody in sections/phrases:

1: 'Epo i tai tai ay'
2: ‘Epo i tai tai ay’
3: ‘Epo i tai tai, epo i tuki tuki'
4: ‘Epo i tuki tuki ay.'

When this is secure, combine the phrases in the following order:
1 & 2, 
3 & 4, 

Ensure this is secure before adding the movement.

Epo i = Tap side of thighs
Tai = Cross RH across chest to Left shoulder followed immediately by LH across chest to Right shoulder
Ay = Hands out front
Tuki-tuki = Tap thighs alternately

Variations could include:

Epo i = Tap thigh
Tai = Clap hands
Ay = Hands out front
Tuki-tuki = Stamp feet gently
When confident with this, turn to face a partner. All of the ‘ays’ will clap partner's hand opposite. Repeat but face the front. Repeat again and turn opposite direction to a new partner. Repeat again to face the outside of the circle.

Organise children into groups to create their own movements. This helps them understand if they have used the right number of moves per syllable which in itself is a great talking point, but above an excellent self-taught lesson.

Thinking Voice:
Once the movement becomes second nature, perform without singing and focus purely on the movement. This is used to reinforce the pulse, ensuring no-one arrives at the end early - the aim is for everyone to finish together and that all movements should be simultaneous.

Explore the rhythms of the song on sticks - I use chopsticks for this as they are soft and nice and light. Keep a relaxed wrist, particularly when playing the tika-tikas of the ‘tuki-tuki’. 

Split into 2 groups:
Group 1: Plays the rhythm of phrases 1 & 2
Group 2: Plays the rhythm of phrases 3 & 4

One after another.
Swap over.
Play at the same time. Repeat.

Texture (using un-pitched percussion instruments):
Transfer to handheld percussion instruments. These will be louder so ensure the volume is sensible and that the rhythm remains accurate - this is your goal!

Explore a variety of un-pitched percussion instruments to see how the sound alters according to the texture.

Using the notes/bars C D E F G A Bb, encourage the children to improvise using any of the notes but to the rhythm of the song. Vamp an accompaniment in F major and it will work. Go around the class to give everyone a go. Encourage creativity. I used a large bass xylophone which went down a storm. Some children stuck to a handful of the notes, while others used the whole range of the instrument. Some struggled to maintain the rhythm, while others nailed it. The main outcome: THEY ALL LOVED IT!!

Where next?
Over to the kids! They now will compose their own melody (using the same parameters C D E F G A and Bb and the song's rhythm) but organising the notes in an order that they like the sound of. They will be encouraged to use sequences and repetition. They can compose a couple of verses if they wish, and they will also be encouraged to take risks.

Pop back in a few weeks to hear some examples.


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