Paraire Henare Tomoana, known familiarly as Friday, was born probably in 1874 or 1875 at either Pakowhai or Waipatu in Hawke's Bay. He was the eldest of the surviving children – 13 in all – of Henare Tomoana and his third wife, Akenehi Patoka. His father was from one of the most illustrious Maori families in Hawke's Bay: Paraire's uncles included Karaitiana Takamoana, Te Meihana Takihi and Pene Te Uamairangi, all of whom were prominent leaders in Hawke's Bay in the nineteenth century. Karaitiana Takamoana and Henare Tomoana were MHRs for Eastern Maori. Paraire belonged to Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti and Ngati Kahungunu; through his father he had links to the hapu Ngati Hawea, Ngati Hori, Ngati Te Rehunga and others, and through his mother, a prominent leader among Hawke's Bay Maori women, to Ngai Te Ao, Ngati Hinepare, and Ngati Hinetewai.
With such high-ranking parents, Paraire was destined for leadership. As a young child he was handed over to a great-uncle to be trained in the military techniques he might require as a chief. He slept in the same room as his mentor, who taught him through discipline the value of moving fast and remaining alert. His parents were Anglican; after his great-uncle's training he probably attended missionary primary schools. His secondary education was at Te Aute College, where he was a prefect and captain of the school. A contemporary of Apirana Ngata, he was prominent in the Te Aute College Students' Association, begun in 1897, and the Young Maori Party, which developed out of it. He was always a firm friend and political supporter of Ngata. Tomoana was regarded as one of the best educated of his people and was fluent in both Maori and English.
Despite the handicap of a deformed foot, Paraire, with his great uncle's training, developed into a formidable athlete. In 1891 he was both coach and half-back of the college rugby team that won the Hawke's Bay championships and toured the South Island. He was also to represent Hawke's Bay in tennis, cricket and hockey, and Turanga in golf. He was for more than 10 years the undefeated champion at the New Zealand Maori golf tournament. In 1904 he coached and escorted a Te Aute College rugby team to compete in New South Wales, and later the same year was appointed coach of the All Blacks. In 1910 he won the Maori singles tennis championship, with the Reverend T. H. Katene the doubles championship, and with Mere Houkamau Stainton the mixed doubles championship. In the 1920s he was on the New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association's organising committee as the representative of the Tamatea (Central Hawke's Bay) district. He also represented Hawke's Bay at meetings of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.
Paraire inherited interests in many land blocks from his father and uncles, his younger brother, Te Rehunga, and one of his surviving sisters. He seems to have made his living as a farmer and manager of his family's lands, but this activity was only part of his busy life. In 1901 he served on the commissariat committee organising the visit of the duke and duchess of Cornwall and York at Rotorua. From its inception in 1901 he was the secretary of the Tamatea Maori Council. He reported on some of its meetings and problems in Maori newspapers, beginning with Te Puke ki Hikurangi. From 1900 he served as a lay delegate to Maori Synods of the Anglican church.
Paraire married twice. His first marriage, to Pani Potangaroa, had ended by 1912 and the divorce was finalised on 20 March 1913. A week later, on 27 March, at Gisborne, he married Kuini Ripeka Raerena, one of eight children of Taare Raerena (Ryland), a farmer of Ngati Porou, and Harata Akuhata-Brown (Paraone). Kuini's age was given as 19. Paraire had courted her by singing his own composition, the love song 'Pokarekare ana', to her and her Ngati Porou elders on Te Poho-o-Rawiri marae. There were four sons and four daughters of this marriage, and Paraire also had an adopted son. Kuini was active in women's associations.
Paraire was a pioneer composer of songs in the new 'action song' style, moving away from classical waiata which used small note ranges, no harmony and irregular metre. Instead, he wrote words to fit harmonised tunes written in diatonic scales and generally deriving from European songs, the rhythms adapted to fit Maori idiom. One of his best-known songs was 'Te ope tuatahi'; others are still among the most popular Maori songs in New Zealand.
In the First World War Paraire Tomoana put his musical ability to patriotic use. He was in his 40s, too old and too valuable at home to go to war. Instead, he threw his energies into Ngata's scheme of raising funds to invest for the benefit of the Maori soldiers who returned, and the children of those who did not. By June 1917 he had organised a song and dance group that gave performances to raise money for the Maori Soldiers' Fund. The members would prepare songs for soldiers' camps, for those at home, for battlegrounds, for work and for mourning.
In July 1917 Paraire took 55 men and women to perform at Waiomatatini at the marriage of Te Rina, daughter of Ngata, to Hetekia Te Kani Te Ua. There, and later at Manutuke and Gisborne, Paraire's group raised more than £250. In September, following an invitation by Ngata, Paraire took Te Poi o Heretaunga, as the group was now called, to Wellington. Forty-five men and women performed in the town hall from 3 to 5 September, and later gave a performance at Trentham Military Camp. One of the songs they performed was written by Paraire, the later well-known 'Hoea ra te waka nei'. The group raised £550 for the Maori Soldiers' Fund. Paraire announced that the group, billed as Te Ope Ngahau o Heretaunga (the dance group of Heretaunga), was to perform for 10 days at Christmas in Auckland. In January 1918 Paraire published the words of his most famous song, 'E Pari ra', a tangi for the soldiers lost in battle. Later this tune was adopted by the Royal New Zealand Navy as their slow march. Other well known songs written by Paraire were 'Tahi nei taru kino', 'I runga i nga puke', 'Hoki hoki tonu mai' and the haka 'Tika tonu'.
From February 1918 Mohi Te Atahikoia and Paraire Tomoana represented Heretaunga on the organising committee of the Eastern Maori Patriotic Association, which collected money for the Maori Soldiers' Fund. Paraire's group had raised over £800 of the £7,000 collected. Paraire Tomoana remained on this committee throughout 1918 and 1919; after July 1918 its headquarters was in the Tairawhiti Club in Gisborne. In spite of criticisms that the money should be distributed to returning soldiers, he supported Ngata in using the funds for stock and station investments. By April 1919 the funds collected had risen to £29,000.
As well as composing action songs, Paraire Tomoana was an accomplished writer and translator, a commentator on ancient waiata, well versed in Maori history and lore. It is probable that much of the latter was learned from family papers; he was the keeper of his father's papers and those of his uncle Pene Te Uamairangi and his brother Te Rehunga. He used his father's notes to put together his many maramataka (almanacs), the first of which was published in collaboration with Ihaia Hutana, the editor of the Maori newspaper Huia Tangata Kotahi in 1895. Monthly sections of these almanacs later appeared in newspapers Paraire was associated with such as Te Kopara before 1921 and Te Toa Takitini in the 1920s. They gave the Maori names of phases of the moon and seasons of the year together with advice on such matters as the right days to plant and harvest various crops, or to fish or hunt for different species. Paraire also supplied Ngata with a number of versions of nineteenth century waiata which became part of Ngata's 1928 publication Nga moteatea. One of these was the famous song 'Pinepine-te-kura'; Paraire supplied the text, translation and commentary. Paraire was on the organising committee of Te Kopara when Frederick Bennett was editor, and was himself an editor of Te Toa Takitini, for which he wrote a series of articles on Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti and Ngati Kahungunu traditional history.
Paraire Henare Tomoana was chairman of the Tamatea Maori Council from 1936, and in the Second World War again spent his time in patriotic work. As he reached his 70s he continued to attend all the great Maori occasions. In 1946 he suffered a stroke and died on 15 April. He was survived by Kuini, who died in 1984, four daughters, three sons and his adopted son. One son had died in the Second World War. He was buried in the Waipatu cemetery at Hastings.