learn to sing John Kanakanaka!

Over the last 2 years, classes across our cluster have enjoyed singing John Kanakanaka as a warm up for Music sessions as part of our Confident Creators programme. Now anyone can have a go at home or at school!


Aga from Pegasus Opera Company teaches us a folk song from the South Sea Islands called John Kanaka. Join in with the singing, signing and the rhythms! This song was sung by seafaring workers to rhythmically accompany the work they are doing aboard ship. As a matter of fact, this one is known as a "halyard shanty" meaning that it was often sung by the sailors hoisting the biggest sails – very hard work indeed. "John Kanaka" originates in the South Sea Islands including Hawaii and Polynesia, between there and Australia and New Zealand. The word "kanaka" in some Polynesian tongues means "man" and is how aboriginal peoples of the islands refer to themselves.

This video was generously supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.