The karanga is an exchange of calls that takes place during the time a visiting group moves onto the marae or into the formal meeting area. The karanga usually indicates the start of the pōwhiri (formal welcome ceremony). Carried out almost exclusively by women and in the Māori language, karanga are initiated by the hosts.
The karanga generally begins with the first call (hosts) and a response (visitors). Like the whaikōrero (formal speech of welcome), karanga follow a format to keep with correct protocol.
It is normal for both kaikaranga (women who carry out the karanga) to address and greet each other and the people they are representing, to address and pay tribute to the dead of each other’s acquaintance (especially those who have recently died) and to refer to the reason the groups have been together.
There is no restriction on how long the exchange lasts nor on the number of women who participate. Not all women are skilled in performing karanga so on any one occasion only a few women may karanga. The exchange generally lasts until the visitors have stopped momentarily in respect in front of the meeting house. After standing in silence for a short time, a final karanga is sometimes offered by a host kuia (female elder) to indicate that the visitors should take their seats.
The kaikaranga is usually versed in the history of the tribe, whakatauki (proverbs), and metaphor. She conveys important information to all those present about the local tribe, the guests and other information about the purpose of the gathering. Kaikaranga can use this information to establish connections between the marae and the visitors.