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The Coming of the Maori



Aerophones or wind instruments may be conveniently divided into trumpets for making a loud noise and flutes with stop holes for playing a tune. Instruments requiring a long tube presented a technical problem in construction because the Polynesian drill, pointed with a stone flake or a conical shell, was not suitable for boring holes of a foot or more in length. In Polynesia, the technical difficulty was avoided by using material that nature had provided with the required cavity. Thus the large Triton shell and the Cassis shell with natural spiral tubes were utilized for making the only form of trumpet used. The native bamboo (kohe) provided a natural tube for the construction of flutes and in Tahiti and the Marquesas page 257a length of bamboo was also used as a lengthened mouthpiece for the shell trumpets. Thus the main wind instruments of Polynesia were the shell trumpet and the bamboo flute played with the nose, though gourds were also used in Hawaii.

In New Zealand, the Triton shell was also used to make trumpets but the limited supply evidently led to the production of a form of wooden trumpet to meet the demand. The bamboo did not grow in New Zealand and recourse was made to human long bones and bird bones for material with a natural tube. However, plants such as the tupakihi or tutu(Coriaria ruscifolia) with a large pith canal offered possibilities as an alternative material. The pith was removed or burned out and a tube of sufficient length for the shorter instruments was thereby furnished without boring. Longer tubes of resonant wood, such as matai, were made by an ingenious method. The long trumpets were shaped out of one piece of wood, split longitudinally, grooved on the split surfaces, and then lashed together. As this technique occurs nowhere else in Polynesia, it may be regarded as another Maori invention.