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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)

Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments.

Flutes, kohe. Flutes were made of bamboo, kohe, and hence received a name from the material. The septum at the nodes were pushed out with a stick, except the one at the top end. Four holes were made. Some of the old men seemed to know something about them, but in the rush of a short stay, the manufacture of a sample and the accompanying demonstration were overlooked. Nothing was known of the nose flute. It had been forgotten. The flute mentioned must have been a mouth flute, such as described by Linton2 in the Marquesas. Evidently a tongue was made, for mention was made of placing a hair beneath it.

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Shell trumpet, pu uho. The trumpets were made of a triton shell, which had the end cut off. In some cases a hole was bored at the side. No old specimens were seen, but the modern ones were in use by the native bakers. When their delivery carts went round in the mornings, the sound of the shell trumpet gave notice to their customers.

Tokere. The tokere was made of tamanu wood, which was hollowed out as shown in Fig. 299. It was sometimes made of miro.

Figure 299.Tokere.

Figure 299.

In one measured, the length was 3 feet 6 inches, and the circumference 1 foot 9½ inches. The log was hollowed out, but a septum about 3 inches wide was left 3 inches from either end. The width of both the long slits and the end slits at the surface was l¾ inches. The tokere vary in size, but are always made with the two septa. They are beaten with one stick usually, and different notes are produced by striking the middle part and the ends. They are used to give time in the dancing. The same instrument is called a pate in Rarotonga.

Kahara. The kahara is a much more complicated instrument, Fig. 300.

It is always made of tamanu wood. The length of the one figured is 2 feet 11½ inches, but its outside circumference is 3 feet 1¼ inches. The kahara is round in cross section. The log is hollowed out through a curiously shaped opening, which is evident in Fig. 300. The ends of the opening are rounded, and then taper back to a narrow connecting slit. The widest parts of the opening at either end are 4¼ and 4½ inches, whilst the middle slit part is 1¼ page 356
Figure 300.–Kahara.

Figure 300.–Kahara.

inches. The ends of the opening come right to the end septum at either end, which are 2 and 2¼ inches thick. The depth of the hollowed out part is 9¼ inches at the ends and 9½ inches at the middle. The total length of the opening was 2 feet 4¼ inches, and the thickness of the lip half an inch.

At either end the kahara was ornamented round the circumference with 21 knobs, each 1½ inches long and 1 inch square at their ends, but slightly narrower at their junction with the body. Opposite either end of the opening there were no projections.

The instrument was also carved with a single spiral on either side of the ends of the opening, and with simple cross lines near the circumference at the ends. Altogether the kahara formed a handsome instrument. Some are very elaborately carved, such as that figured by Hamilton3 in Dominion Museum Bulletin No. 3.

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Figure 301.Playing the kahara.

Figure 301.
Playing the kahara.

The kahara. was played with two sticks that were beaten near the hole, Fig. 301. A different note was produced from either end.

Drum, pahu. The pahu was a true drum, formed from a hollowed block and covered with skin, Fig. 302.

Figure 302.The pahu drum.

Figure 302.
The pahu drum.

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The wood used was tamanu, tou, kuru, puka, or utu. The specimen figured stands 1 foot 7½ inches high. It is circular in cross section. Its diameter at the lower end is 1 foot 2 inches, and at the widest part, towards the top, 1 foot 4 inches.

The wooden block has been hollowed from both ends, leaving a solid wooden partition about 5¾ inches from the base circumference. The sides of the lower end have been cut into a number of slits, commencing about 1 inch below the partition. Each slit was 2½ inches long and 1 inch wide, and about 1 inch apart. There were 21 slots arranged around the circumference of the drum. Below them, the circumference of the base consisted of a continuous band, 2¼ inches deeep. The lower end was left open.

The opening at the upper end was 8¾ inches in diameter. Over the opening was stretched a piece of shark-skin, which extended down on the outer surface of the drum from 3 to 4 inches. The covering shark-skin was in one piece. A single layer of shark-skin, 2½ inches wide, is placed under the outer edge of the single sheet, so as to make a double layer round the circumference. Through both layers, and about 2/5ths of an inch from the edge, holes are pierced, from 1¼ to 1½ inches apart. There are 32 holes altogether.

The tightening cords consist of lengths of flat threeply sinnet braid. They pass from the holes in the shark-skin down to the slots, through which they pass, to be tied round the woodwork between the bottom of the slot and the lower edge of the base. The few drums seen in Aitutaki had no shark-skin in position. The example figured showed that the cords had been attached as in Fig. 303.

Figure 303.Arrangement of tightening cords in pahu drum.

Figure 303.
Arrangement of tightening cords in pahu drum.

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Each cord is over twice the length of the distance between the shark-skin and the lower rim. In Fig. 303 the cord a has come over from the hole on the left. It passes down through the hole in the shark-skin, A, and down to the corresponding slot below, B. It passes back through the slot, and may take a turn round the lower rim. A fresh length of cord, b, starts from the slot B. A short length of one end is passed back through the slot and takes a turn round the rim. The ends of a and b may be tied together temporarily on the bottom of the rim. The long length of b is now brought upwards on the left of a. It passes over the shark-skin and under a, just to the left of its entrance in to the hole A in the shark-skin. From here b is taken across to the hole B, passes through, and down to the slot D, where it is treated in exactly the same manner as the cord a on the last slot B. A new cord c is now treated in the same manner as the cord b in the last slot B. The new cord c passes upwards under b and across to the next hole on the right. In this manner all the cords are put on in pairs, one cord ending as another begins. There are 32 holes in the shark-skin, but only 21 slots near the base, hence 11 of the slots take two pairs of cords, but this makes no difference to the technique of the cords.

To tighten up the cords, each pair is pulled as taut as possible down towards the rim. Then the short end of one of the pair of cords, generally the commencing end, which has taken a complete turn round the rim, is brought up in front of the rim. It is passed back into the slot behind the pair of cords, and pulls them forward as in Fig. 304. The rim is nearly 1½ inches thick, so the loop exercises enough leverage to complete the tautness of the cords. The end of
Figure 304. Technique of loop to tighten cords in pahu drum.

Figure 304.
Technique of loop to tighten cords in pahu drum.

page 360 the loop, which now goes back from the front below the rim, is tied to the end of the other cord of the pair with a reef knot. The knots may be on the under or inner surface of the rim. Where two pairs enter one slot, each pair is dealt with separately.

The knots and crossings on the rim are concealed by covering the front, under surface, and back of the rim with strips of dry pandanus leaf. These are kept in position by running a continuous fine twisted cord in a chain knot round the rim. The tying cord passes once or twice through each slot.

The drum is played with the bare hands, and makes quite a good sound.

The pahu in Fig. 302 is covered with painted figures from the lower rim to the shark-skin. The figures are done before the shark-skin is put on. They will be shown in detail in the section on Decorative Art.