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Games and Pastimes of the Maori

Gourd Instruments

Gourd Instruments

It would appear that, in olden days, the Maori used two forms of gourd instruments, the two differing much in size. The larger one was used as is a trumpet or horn, and from it was produced what Moser styles "a most horrid noise." I am not aware that any speci men of this larger form has been preserved in our museums, but from my experience of the sounds produced from the shell trumpet, pu kaea, cow horns and mill hoppers by enthusiastic natives I am quite prepared to accept Moser's "horrid noise." T. Moser was the author of Mahoe Leaves, published as a small booklet at Wellington in 1863. It contains a number of quaint sketches of native life that appeared first in the Wellington Independent. He wrote as follows of the noise producer:—"The meeting was summoned by blowing into the mouth of a calabash, in the side of which were punctured two or three holes. I think the name for the instrument is rehu." page 285 Fig. 96 Small Gourd Instrument in British Museum. See below From the Edge-Partington Album The small amount of evidence available is in favour of rehu being the name of a form of flute or pipe.

Nihoniho explains that the gourd instrument formerly used in the Waiapu district was a kind of horn or trumpet blown as was a pu tatara, or shell trumpet. The gourds so used were those of an elon gated form, with a curve at the stem end. A piece was cut off the large end of the gourd, which served as the mouth of the instrument. At the stem or small end a small piece was cut off, and a wooden mouthpiece fitted on. My informant did not know of any other form of instrument made from gourds, but one of his own tribesmen, Iehu Nukunuku, informed me that very small gourds were sometimes converted into nose flutes. One of these small instruments has been preserved in the British Museum, and is figured in Edge-Partington's Album of Pacific artifacts. In Fig. 96 above we have a reproduction of the sketch. This small instrument is but 3½ inches in length, and was probably used as a nose flute. It closely resembles small nose flutes of Tahiti shown in Fig. 97 (p. 286). Apart from what are presumably stops, three in number, it is seen that Fig. 96 also shows a small hole near the small open end of the gourd. This recalls the nguru nose flute, which has a similar hole very close to the end from which the instrument was sounded, as also some of the small bone instruments described above. The present writer, being utterly page 286lacking in knowledge of music and musical instruments, is the last person who should have been entrusted with the writing of this paper. He can offer no explanation of the use of the two holes situated so close together in nose flutes. Doubtless the matter could have been explained by old time natives with whom he sojourned four or five decades ago, but the lack of information is but one more illustration of many wasted opportunities.

Fig. 97 Two Small Nose Flutes from Tahiti A. Small gourd specimen. Height 2¼ inches B. Small specimen formed of a nut. Length 1¾ inches From the Edge-Partington Album

In Fig. 97 above are shown two small nose flutes from Tahiti that resemble the Maori specimen in Fig. 96 (p. 285). These two specimens are apparently in the British Museum, and are figured in the Edge-Partington Album. A shows but two stops and no hole is seen near the aperture at the small end of the gourd. In B we see the three stops of the Maori form, as also the fourth hole near the top, but the orifice at the extreme end, or upper part, seems to be lacking.

At the Hawaiian Isles similar instruments seem to have been used, and Fig. 98 (p. 287) shows three specimens from that group. A and B are respectively 3 and 2¼ inches in height; they carry burnt designs of various kinds, and each has two stops of different sizes, but no hole near the end orifice. In C we note the three stops and hole near the upper orifice, as seen in the Maori form. These three specimens are figured in the Edge-Partington Album, where they are called ipu hokiokio or 'lovers whistles.' C is 2½ inches in height. I have seen no explanation of how these Hawaiian forms were sounded, whether by page 287 Fig. 98 Small Gourd Instruments in the Bishop Museum, Honolulu From the Edge-Partington Album mouth or nose, but C closely resembles the Maori form of Fig. 96 (p. 285). This C specimen is attached by means of a string to a cord that has a loop at one end, but this is not explained. Brigham tells us that at Hawaii small gourds, pierced with from two to five holes, were swung by a cord as a bullroarer is, and he calls these ipu hokiokio. The Hawaiians used gourd rattles, dried gourds containing some hard seeds or stones, but the two figured in Edge-Partington's Album show no stop-like holes. One feels inclined to place more faith in the name of whistle, as applied to these Hawaiian forms pierced with several holes. A specimen figured in Emory's work, The Island of Lanai, is 3 in. in length and has three small holes in one side.

Ellis describes a curious gourd instrument used among the Hawaiians. It was composed of two gourds, one oval, the other round, neatly fastened to each other. "Each musician held his instrument before him with both hands (the performers being seated), and produced his music by striking it on the ground, where he had laid the piece of cloth, and beating it with his fingers, or the palms of his hands."