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The Coming of the Maori

10 — Musical Instruments

page 252

Musical Instruments

Musical instruments may be broadly grouped under four headings: membranophones (drums with vibrating cover), autophones (direct percussion as wooden gongs), aerophones (wind instruments), and cordophones (string instruments). All four classes were present in Polynesia but they were few in number and varied in distribution. The only membranophone was the shark-skin drum, the principal autophone was the slot gong, the aerophones were represented by shell trumpets and the bamboo nose flute, and the cordophone was a primitive form of bow with one string though in Hawaii, some had three strings.

In New Zealand, the shark-skin drum was curiously absent. The autophones were represented by a wooden war gong and some minor instruments. In wind instruments, however, the Maori developed a variety of forms not present in Polynesia. The presence of a stringed instrument with one string rests on the report of one man. Some of the minor instruments were more in the nature of noise-producing toys than musical instruments.

The matter of the musical notes produced from instruments with stop holes has been capably dealt with by Andersen (2) who tested instruments in various museums. For musical detail, students are referred to his work.


The Polynesian shark-skin drum was made by hollowing out a section of tree trunk, leaving a partition or diaphragm in the lower half and closing the upper end with a shark-skin cover. The instrument was played with the bare hands and drum Sticks were not used. It was present in Society, Cook, Austral, Tuamotu, Mangareva, Marquesas, and Hawaii but absent in Samoa, Tonga, Easter Island, and New Zealand. Though page 253the technique of fixing and tautening the shark-skin cover by cords varied, the drum was named pahu in all the islands where it was present. Its absence in New Zealand is peculiar because the last shipment of settlers for New Zealand by the Fleet in 1350 A.D. left central Polynesia after the Hawaiian ancestors had sailed north from the same centre taking the drum with them.


The slot gong of Polynesia which I have referred to in previous works as the slit gong is better named a slot gong for a section of tree trunk was hollowed out through a long narrow opening on the side which was a slot rather than a slit. It was laid on the ground with the slot upwards and beaten on the outer side of the opening with one or two sucks. Its distribution differs from that of the shark-skin drum for it was present in Samoa and Tonga as well as Society, Cook, Austral, and Mangareva and absent in Hawaii, Marquesas, Easter Island and New Zealand. New Zealand is included in the absentee list because I do not consider the slot gong figured by Best (18, p. 165, Fig. 103) to be a true descendant of the Polynesian slot gong. It is present in Melanesia and its absence in the Marquesas and Hawaii offers evidence that it was a late introduction which spread from Fiji to Samoa and Tonga and then diffused east but never reached the marginal areas of Hawaii, Marquesas, Easter Island, and New Zealand. The Maori, however, developed a suspended form of wooden gong, used castanets, and made two instruments which were fixed between the teeth at one end.

The war gong (pahu) of the Maori has been described by various informants and writers from hearsay, but all agree in terming it a pahu. Fortunately George French Angas, an artist who visited New Zealand in 1846, saw an actual specimen in the deserted village of Otawhao in the Waikato district and sketched it. Quoted by Andersen (2, p. 197), Angas stated, "It is an oblong piece of wood, about six feet long, with a groove in the centre; and being slung by ropes of flax, was struck with a heavy piece of wood, by a man who sat on an elevated scaffold, crying out at every stroke the watchword of alarm…". The original sketch by Angas (2, Figs. 31, 32) shows the raised scaffold or platform with an inclined ladder leading up to it, and two high, forked poles projecting well above the platform on either side with a cross bar resting on the forks. The pahu was suspended horizontally by two ropes to be within reach of the seated watchman who is shown beating with a stick apparently against the far edge of the groove on the under side of the suspended plank. The drawing of the gong itself is reproduced in Figure 69a.

It is evident from the drawing that the gong was a thick plank thinned off towards the rounded ends. The median groove was truly a page 254groove and not a hollowing out as in the Polynesian slot gongs. One writer states that the gong was 12 feet long. Some informants stated that the sound could be heard from 10 to 12 miles and another gave 20 miles.

Copies of the Angas sketch were reproduced by later writers and Andersen (2, p. 197) points out that the original gong underwent changes into a rectangular form with the middle groove evidently pierced through the plank and the operator apparently rattling the stick against the sides of the new opening. Needless to say, raiding a sdck against the two sides of a comparatively narrow opening could not produce the volume of sound that would carry the number of miles credited to the gong.

Simpler forms of pahu are described as a matai plank hung up by two ropes and others are said to have been hollowed out like a wooden bowl (kumete). Another method was to hang the plank vertically by a single rope attached to one end. Natural suspension in the vertical position was produced by cutting two long vertical slits in a standing hollow tree and severing the lower end of the enclosed piece. The free tongue so formed gave fordh a reverberating sound when struck. Such a type of gong was limited to forest-dwelling tribes like the Tuhoe, in whose territory the tree gongs have been described.

A model of a pahu gong described by Best (18, p. 164) was made by a Tuhoe native in 1899 for a European. It was about five feet long in the form of a canoe but with a knob with a constricted neck at each end. It was hollowed out through a long, narrow slot that widened out in the interior. This is the nearest approach to the Polynesian slot gong. The constricted neck of the knobs at each end seems to indicate that the full-sized gongs were suspended with two ropes. In making the extra hollowing out in a model, it is possible that the craftsman departed from the orthodox technique of the full-sized gongs.

The origin of the Maori war gong presents a problem. The application of the name pahu to a percussion instrument in New Zealand appears to indicate that the Maori ancestors knew the shark-skin drum in central Polynesia before they left. For some unknown reason, they ceased to manufacture the drum and developed a form of gong to which they gave the spare name of pahu. On the other hand, the question arises as to whether or not they also knew the Polynesian slot gong and developed their form of war gong from it. The distribudon of the slot gong, however, indicates that it had not reached central Polynesia when the Hawaiian and Maori ancestors left that area. The linguistic evidence offers further support. The name of the slot gong in the Cook Islands (except Mangaia) is tokere and in the Society Islands, it is to'ere where the glottal stop represents the k sound of other dialects. The dialectal form of tokere in Hawaii is ko'ele, which means the tapping sound made by a beater on the wooden anvil in the manufacture of tapa. Hawaiian page 255women used a series of taps like a limited Morse code to signal each other. In New Zealand, tokere was the name given to castanets of wood or bone. Thus tokere was a widely spread Polynesian word that could be applied to a repeated tapping sound or an instrument by which such a sound could be produced. In western Polynesia, the names lali, nafa, and longo were applied to various forms of the slot gong. When the gong reached central Polynesia, it was adopted but it was given the local name of tokere. Had the Maori known and introduced the slot gong into New
Fig. 69. Autophones.a, pahu gong, adapted from Andersen (2, fig. 31); b, c, pakuru, after Hamilton (46, pl. XLV).

Fig. 69. Autophones.
a, pahu gong, adapted from Andersen (2, fig. 31); b, c, pakuru, after Hamilton (46, pl. XLV).

Zealand, they were likely to have known it by the central Polynesian name of tokere. Hence when they made a percussion instrument in New Zealand, which resembled a gong more than a drum in structure and the method of producing sound, we would have expected them to have applied the name of tokere to it instead of pahu. The fact that they fell back on an old name that they knew strongly indicates that they had no past knowledge of the tokere slot gong and that the Maori form of pahu war gong was an independent local development. The principle of suspending a resonant plank was a new procedure in producing sound and the grooving of the under surface was a natural sequence in experiment. The further extension of the shallow groove into a deeper cavity like a wooden bowl or canoe was again a natural development. If the slot gong figured by Best is truly an authentic type, it may be explained as due to page 256convergence in which a series of techniques were repeated in New Zealand which were independent of any hereditary pattern.

Castanets (tokere) of wood or bone were made and used with a pair in each hand. The tokere is evidently old for it is mentioned in the legend of the slaying of Kae (45, p. 30) in which a number of musical instruments were used to beguile Kae into laughing so as to show the overlapping teeth (niho tapae) by which he could be identified. Amongst the instruments mentioned are "te putorino, te koauau, te tokere".

Two instruments were made of which one end was held between the teeth and the other end caused to vibrate by tapping with a stick or playing with the finger. They were respectively termed pakuru and roria.

The pakuru was a wooden strip 14 to 18 inches long, about an inch wide, with one surface flat and the other convex. A specimen figured by Hamilton (46, PL 65) and shown in Figure 69b, was carved and the diagonal marks on the front surface were burnt in. A tapping rod about 6 inches long was attached to the head by a long flaxen cord on which short pieces of Dentalium shells were threaded (Fig. 69c). Some pakuru were plain or notched (whakakaka) along the edges. The instrument was played by holding one end with the left hand and the other between the teeth with the flat side down. It was tapped with the stick in the right hand in time to the words of a song.

The roria was a primitive form of the pakuru. It was formed by an elastic strip of split supplejack (kareao), one end being held between the teeth and the other end flicked with the finger. The player made guttural sounds and the movements of the lips helped to vary the sounds. According to Andersen (2, p. 297), another form of roria was made from matai, titoki, and moire, a piece about the size of the little finger being scraped thin at one end. The thick end was held in the left hand and the other end made to vibrate close to the teeth by flicking with the right hand. An instrument of this type termed ni'aukani was made in Hawaii and also in the Marquesas.


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.


Instruments of the trumpet class received the generic name of pu. There ware four kinds of pu specified by qualifying terms and a doubtful form made from a gourd.
1.Flax trumpets (pu harakeke or tetere) were toys made for children from a split half blade of flax (harakeke) by winding it in overlapping turns from the small mouth opening to the wider distal end. It was sometimes used by adults as a makeshift to announce their approach to a village (Fig. 70a).
2.Shell trumpets (pu tatara, pu moana, etc.) were widely spread throughout the world. In Polynesia, they were made of Triton shells and also of Cassis shells in some islands. The hole was bored in the side of one of the whorls near the apex. In Tahiti and the Marquesas, a bamboo reed as long as 19 inches was inserted in the hole for use as a mouthpiece.
The Maori trumpet was also made of Triton shells but the apex was cut off and a carved wooden mouthpiece was lashed to the opening through holes drilled through the shell and the corresponding parts of the mouthpiece. Some form of gum was evidently used to seal the join. A loop was sometimes attached through a hole in the outer rim of the shell and this sometimes carried tufts of dog's hair or feathers as ornamentation (Fig. 70b). White, quoted by Best (18, p. 160), states that the wooden mouthpiece was made in two pieces which were lashed together with aerial roots (aka kiekie) of the Freycinetia banksii. This was evidently done in order to hollow out the cavity of long mouthpieces of five or more inches in length. Some mouthpieces were exceptionally long and, according page 258to Andersen (2, p. 287) were termed pu pakapaka. A specimen in the British Museum, shown in Figure 70c, is a hybrid between the true shell trumpet (pu tatara) and the wooden trumpet (pu kaea) and it was probably this type of instrument which led to the development of the long
Fig. 70. Trumpets.a, flax; b, shell; c, shell with long mouthpiece; d, wood; e, double mouth; a, c-e, after Andersen (2); b, after Best (18).

Fig. 70. Trumpets.
a, flax; b, shell; c, shell with long mouthpiece; d, wood; e, double mouth; a, c-e, after Andersen (2); b, after Best (18).

wooden trumpets. The shell trumpet was used to assemble the people, to announce visitors, and in some chiefly families to announce the birth of a first-born son.
3.Wooden trumpets (pu kaea) ranged in length usually from 45 feet to 6 feet though some have been reported as short as 2 feet and the record page 259length is probably the specimen in the Liverpool Museum which is 8 feet 7 inches in length. A typical specimen described by Best (18, p. 156) is 4 feet 9 inches in length, 1¼ inches in diameter at the mouth end and flared to a diameter of four inches at the distal end. The best wood was matai which was trimmed to the shape of the instrument. It was split longitudinally into two equal parts and the cavity hollowed out on each half. About 12 inches from the flared outer end, a projection or tonsil (putohe) was left on one of the halves. A specimen described by Newman (18, p. 155) had two tonsils towards the flared end and another about 6 inches from the mouth end while a specimen in the Newcastle Museum has three on one side and two on the other. When the outer surface was trimmed off, the two halves were fitted together and bound firmly from the mouth end to the beginning of the flare with close turns of a vine, usually the aerial roots of the kiekie. Split vines were sometimes used. The outer bell-shaped end (whara) was sometimes formed of separate pieces of wood, fitted and lashed to the end of the funnel. The flared end usually consisted of four pieces, each coming to a point like the petals of a flower (Fig. 7(b). In some instruments, two of the flared points were formed of prolongations of the two main pieces and the other two were wedge-shaped pieces fitted in between the two continuations of the tube. In other specimens, the outer mouth was formed only of the prolongation of the two main pieces. A unique specimen in the Liverpool Museum has a double outer end (Fig. 70e). The long wooden trumpets supplied the deficiency in Triton shells and the small end (kongutu) was frequently carved. This type was essentially a war trumpet which was used to sound the alarm against attack and also used by troops during military campaigns.
4.The pu torino is a wind instrument which as, Andersen (2, p. 273) says, has been inaptly described as resembling a flageolet but it is nearer to an alto bugle-flute. It varied in length from about 9½ inches to 21¾ inches but an average would be between 18 and 19 inches. From the mouth opening it gradually increased to a width of about 2 inches in the middle and then decreased to almost a point at its distal end. In some instruments, the cavity was continuous with a small hole at the distal end but in others the end was not perforated. The peculiarity of the pu torino was that the opening for the emission of sound was in the middle of the upper surface, though in some, it was slightly nearer to the mouth end. The instrument was somewhat flattened in the middle from before back.

The wood preferred was matai which after being shaped was split longitudinally into upper and lower pieces of approximately the same size. The two halves were hollowed on the split surfaces to form the cavity and the edges retained the line of cleavage so as to make a close join. The two halves were fitted and lashed together with split aerial roots of the kiekie. Unlike that in the wooden pu kaea, the lashing was not continuous page 260but was spaced to five or more places, the two end lashings being countersunk. The lashings of close transverse turns were neatly made and in old specimens, the vine resembles copper wire (Fig. 71a).

The middle opening on the upper surface was usually round in small instruments but in the more elaborate specimens the opening was usually made to represent the typical figure-of-eight mouth of a carved head sometimes provided with a body and limbs. The vertex of the head was towards the mouthpiece (Fig. 71b) but in one rare specimen the head was carved sideways, with the long axis of the mouth vertical and near
Fig. 71. Putorino.a, simple; b, carved; c, vertical mouth; d, projecting head; e, f, full body; g, double, b, Oldman coll., no. 27; c-g, after Andersen (2).

Fig. 71. Putorino.
a, simple; b, carved; c, vertical mouth; d, projecting head; e, f, full body; g, double, b, Oldman coll., no. 27; c-g, after Andersen (2).

the side edge of the instrument (Fig. 71c). A head was also carved neat the mouth opening, just below the end lashing. In some instruments, the proximal head carving was raised so that the mouth and chin projected forwards and downwards with the instrument in the vertical position (Fig. 71d). A very fine specimen in the Dominion Museum, from the Lord St. Oswald Collection, has the projecting mouth with a curved tongue interlocking with a small manaia head somewhat after the technique observed in some of the ceremonial jade adzes. In the same instrument, the middle head is provided with a body which is arched to rest on its head and heels (Fig. 71e, f). A rare specimen in the British Museum is double, the total length being 18 inches, the separate tubes 8 page 261inches, and the ends in one piece. The middle width is 2½ inches, each tube having a carved head with a mouth opening but with the heads reversed (Fig. 71g).

The definite use of the pu torino is in doubt from lack of an informant who had been taught to play one. I was informed that it was in the nature of a speaking trumpet, the player singing or reciting words and chants into the instrument. At the same time, he held the fingers of the right hand above the middle opening and twiddled his fingers at the end of each verse to produce a sound like hoho ho and hence one of the names of the instrument was pu hoho ho. I was also told of an ancestor who by playing down-wind to the home of his sweetheart, arranged an appointment with her which was duly kept. Some of the pu torino were beautifully made; and in shape, manufacture, and use, they are peculiar to New Zealand.

Fig. 72. a, calabash whistle; b, bull roarer; after Best (18).

Fig. 72. a, calabash whistle; b, bull roarer; after Best (18).

A calabash trumpet in the British Museum, figured by Edge-Partington (33, Series 1, Pl. 386, No. 7), has been attributed to New Zealand. It is made from a small gourd (hue) with the stem end cut off, a side hole in the neck, and three holes placed horizontally in a row about the middle of the gourd. The surface is ornamented with incised lines in the upper part, the lowest forming a serrated edge (Fig. 72a). The instrument is 5¼ inches high. Similar instruments were made in Hawaii and ornamented with rectilinear patterns and some specimens are preserved in the Bishop Museum. The fact that no other specimens have been preserved in New Zealand or reported elsewhere and that the rectilinear ornamentation has no resemblance to the scroll patterns on some New Zealand split calabashes used as food dishes, make it appear that the British Museum specimen has been wrongly identified and that it is more likely Hawaiian. Though some informants have stated that small calabashes were used by the Maori to make musical instruments, we have no material evidence that they were made with the same technique as the Hawaiian instruments. On the other hand, an instrument seen in actual use by Mr. G. Graham (2, p. 296) was described as a gourd 12 inches long with a hole at the end of the neck for blowing and a hole for the finger a few inches from the mouthpiece. Graham considered it to be a freak and it probably was.

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Flutes, throughout Polynesia, were made of a length of bamboo from 12 to 18 inches long with one end closed by a node and the other open. The embouchure, or hole, through which the breath was directed, was near the closed end. The sound holes varied in different island groups from two to four. The instruments were played with the nose, one nostril being closed with a thumb and the breath expelled through the other. Some writers have stated that one nostril was closed by muscular action without digital assistance but such voluntary muscular control is hard to believe.

The Maori had a variety of wind instruments with stops and though they were not all played on the side as flutes, they have been grouped together under that heading for convenience of description. A number of different names have been applied to similar instruments and the same name has been applied to different instruments. It is somewhat difficult to clear the confusion but a classification based on structure suggests the four following groups: porutu, whio, koauau, and nguru.

The porutu or rehu is a true flute with one end closed, the embouchure near the closed end, and three stop holes in the same line as the embouchure. The name porutu has caused doubt from its not being known to informants but it has been accepted in Williams's Dictionary. White describes a similarly constructed instrument as a rehu and we may regard the two names as synonyms. A specimen, quoted by Best (18, p. 133) from a description by Buller, was made from a straight branch of tupakihi(Coriaria ruscifolia), 22½ inches long and 1½ inches thick. The pith was removed from the pith canal which was ¾ of an inch in diameter. One end was plugged neatly with a piece of soft wood and carved with a human head, below which the embouchure was pierced. Three holes were pierced on the same line towards the lower end, the lowest being six inches from the end, with two inches to the next hole and one and a half inches to the third hole or top hole. The stop holes were 3/16 of an inch in diameter. A human head was carved in the middle and another at the lower end. Best remarks that the lowest head had projecting ears as if listening to the sound of the instrument. An apparently more modern specimen in the Dominion Museum (no. 197) is 14¼ inches long with one end plugged, a hole 5/16 of an inch in diameter 1½ inches from the plugged end and three holes towards the lower end (Fig. 73a). The wood is neinei. Best (18, p. 134) doubted the European form of the instrument and it is more likely to have been derived from the old Polynesian form than from a European source. Unlike the Polynesian flutes, the Maori instrument was played with the mouth and not with the nose.

The whio, as quoted by Best (18, p. 142) from White, was made with page 263a similar technique to the pu torino, in two pieces but with four stops, three on the upper side and one on the lower. The wood was matai and after the two pieces were hollowed from end to end, they were fitted together and lashed with kiekie aerial roots. Baucke, quoted by Andersen (2, p. 255), owned one of these instruments which was 25 inches long, 1¾ inches in outside diameter and 7/8 inch bore. Baucke described the instrumeats
Fig. 73. Flutes.a, porutu (flute), b, whio; c, koauau, wood; d, koauau, bone; e, whio. a-c, e, after Best (18), d, after Hamilton (46, pl. 57, fig. 1).

Fig. 73. Flutes.
a, porutu (flute), b, whio; c, koauau, wood; d, koauau, bone; e, whio. a-c, e, after Best (18), d, after Hamilton (46, pl. 57, fig. 1).

as being made of matai wood in two billets which were dressed down to two half cylinders. These were carefully grooved, fitted, and bound together at each end and the middle. Three finger holes were drilled and the blank interspaces carved. A round cord was plaited to fill the bore, the cord was charged with sand, the tube threaded on the cord which was stretched between two stakes. The tube was moved to and fro on the sanded cord which filed out the bore and polished the tube. The instrument was played by blowing across the upper end. Baucke called the instrument a pu which was probably derived from the similarity of the hollowing technique to that of the pu torino and the pu kaea. However, the technique is identical with that of the whio described by White. White page 264also describes an inferior kind of whio made from a piece of tupakihi, the pith being removed by using a piece of wood as a borer. The outside was dressed smooth and holes bored as in the one made of matai. This form was used by children and beginners learning to play. The whio differs from the pu torino in having three stops instead of the one large middle opening and it differs from the porutu or rehu in the upper end being open and used for blowing instead of a stopped upper end with a side embouchure (Fig. 73b). Though it may be a hybrid, it is a disdnct instrument. The whio was said to be played by men for the purpose of attracting some women they desired. If they played well, they were successful. A poor player somedmes employed an expert to play for him and in dimly lighted houses, the decepdon was not observed. If successful in his courdng, the employer paid the expert.

The koauau was structurally a shortened form of the whio and it differed from the porutu or rehu, not only in length but in being open at both ends. It was played with the lips by blowing across the open upper end. Some instruments were occasionally played with the nose, the upper end being pressed against the upper lip to close the opening. The top side hole then came under the left nostril and the right nostril was closed by pressure with the right thumb. In this way, the instrument could be used as a nose flute but, as pointed out by Andersen (2, p. 230), this technique could not be applied to the majority of koauau owing to the nearest side hole being out of reach of the left nostril. The instrument was usually four to five inches in length but some were as long as eight inches. The sound holes varied in number to as high as six but three was the most common. A transverse hole through a protuberance in the back was frequently present to carry a cord for suspending the instrument around the neck.

They were made of wood or bone. The woods cited were tupakihi (tutu), kaiwhiria, whau, houhou, and matai. The pith of the tupakihi was burnt out with a live ember and the other woods were probably subjected to a similar treatment. Thus it was possible to clear the pith canals in shorter lengths and so avoid splitting as was done in longer instruments. Short lengths of human bone from the humerus or the femur were preferred to wood not only from the saving of labour in boring the tube but because bone instruments were said to produce a sweeter sound than the wooden ones. The wooden koauau were usually elaborately carved and in some perforated discs of paua shell were inlaid to surround the sound holes (Fig. 73c). The bone instruments were carved more simply with a band at each end or with an additional band in the middle. The carving was sometimes applied to raised ridges which encircled the instrument.

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The bone was usually obtained from an enemy slain in battle which gave an additional value to the instrument. An old Mohaka chief who made a koauau from such a source sent it to Captain Mair (2, p. 242) with the appreciative remark that it was the sweetest instrument he had ever played The koauau stated to have been played by Tutanekai to draw the beauteous Hinemoa across the Rotorua lake to his home on Mokoia was made from the arm bone of a priest who had officiated at Tutanekai's birth but was subsequently slain for breaking the tapu of the fasting period connected with the ceremony. This koauau is in the Auckland Museum and Andersen (2, p. 240) gave its dimensions in millimeters which I have converted to inches. The length is 52 inches, the bore at the upper end 0.6 inch, and at the lower end 05 inch. Of the three sound holes, the distances from the upper end are respectively 0.9, 1.75, and 3.6 inches. The posterior ridge for muscle attachment has been smoothed down leaving a raised portion 1.9 inches from the top, which is pierced transversely for the suspension cord (Fig. 73d).

In some instruments fresh holes have been bored and the old ones plugged evidently to change the notes. Andersen made an intensive study of a number of instruments and tested them as to sound. He says (2, p. 232)

"there is a great diversity in the size and shape of the koauau—so great mat it is difficult to see how any uniformity of sound could have been obtained from the various kinds. They differed in the length and shape of the bore, in the number of holes, and in the distance between the holes as well as the diameter of the holes. Some had a hole at the back as well as holes in front."

In spite of their diversity, expert players were greatly admired and they were able to attract the favourable regard of the fair sex as well as giving pleasure to other listeners. It has been said that the melody was merely the medium to convey the words of love messages to those who understood. Though soft, the music carried to a considerable distance, for the love message of Tutanekai reached Hinemoa over a mile and a half of space.

A number of thin instruments made from albatross bones were pierced with three equidistant holes and with a top hole usually out of line with with the others for a suspensory cord (Fig. 73e). Andersen (2, p. 247) found that from instruments with equidistant holes he could produce "no more than a whisding suggestion of what the notes may be." Such instruments may have been made as toys for children. Many of them are very small with the holes too close to finger and these may have been for suspensory toggles (poro).

The nguru or whistle-flute as it is termed by Andersen (2, p. 262) is a curiously shaped instrument which is another local invention by the page 266Maori. It is cylindrical in shape with a small end curved upward into a short projection resembling the bowl of a clay pipe with the stem broken off short and turned upwards. The length ranges from 2½ inches to 5½ inches and the middle diameter is somewhere about 1¼ inches to a 4-inch length. The material was wood, stone, and rarely whale ivory. The cavity was evidently bored with, a drill and must have entailed much labour with stone and whale ivory. The cavity diminished at the smaller end and was pierced through to the upper flat end of the projection. Two and sometimes three holes were pierced on the upper surface towards the broad end and in one stone instrument in the Auckland Museum a second pair of
Fig. 74. Whistles (nguru).a, Oldman coll., no. 22; b-d, after Andersen (2).

Fig. 74. Whistles (nguru).
a, Oldman coll., no. 22; b-d, after Andersen (2).

holes had been drilled and the first pair plugged. Some of the stone instruments in the Auckland Museum had no holes on the upper surface. Another hole was drilled into the cavity from the outer convex bend of the small end. Some instruments had a transverse hole on the under surface for a suspensory cord (Fig. 74).

The wooden instruments were carved usually with the double spiral motif supported by notched bars bounded by converging parallel ridges. A whale-ivory nguru in the Wanganui Museum is 4¼ inches long, the oval bore at the wide end is 1 inch by ¾ inch in cross diameters, and it is carved at the wide end. A number of stone instruments in the Auckland Museum are plain.

Information concerning the instrument as remarked by Andersen (2, p. 262) is contradictory. The term nguru was first used by Hamilton but Williams's Dictionary has excluded it. Hamilton stated that the small end page 267was inserted in the nostril, and as the name implies snoring or snorting through it, he evidently considered that nguru or ngunguru (to grunt, or groan) was a synonym for ngongoro (to snore or snort) but they are distinct words with different meanings. None of the later writers had ever heard it played by a Maori but Parkinson, who accompanied Cook's first voyage, gives a drawing of one and describes it as a whistle made of wood. He further stated that those worn about the neck are 3½ inches in length and yield a shrill sound. Thus there seems no doubt that the instrument, in spite of its name, did not grunt or snort but it whistled. Unfortunately, Parkinson did not say which end was blown or what it was blown with. Andersen could not produce any sound except by blowing across the wide end as if it were a koauau, when it gave a clear sharp whistle like a boatswain's pipe. Playing the holes gave notes of varying pitch and the odd hole at the bend altered the pitch. On the evidence, it appears that the instrument was played by blowing across the wide end with the lips like a koauau, that it gave a whistling sound, and the name nguru is a misnomer. It was probably used for signalling.

A terra-cotta flute with a turned up end like that of the nguru has been found in a prehistoric grave in Peru and Andersen (2, p. 265) suggests that some Polynesian Maori may have reached South America and brought back the Peruvian instrument which became the prototype of the Maori nguru. Some writers have also suggested the possibility and even the probability of a Polynesian navigator having reached South America in pre-Columbian times and brought back the sweet potato from Peru with its native name of kumar which became kumara in Polynesia. It is intriguing to think that he also brought the Peruvian flute. However, had he or anyone else brought it back, the flute would have had to sojourn in eastern and central Polynesia before it reached New Zealand. As there are no traces of an instrument like the Peruvian flute in any part of Polynesia, it must be admitted that the Maori invented the nguru in New Zealand without having received any suggestion from Peru.

Bull Roarer, and Whizzer

The bull roarer (purorohu, purerehua, etc.) as described by Best (18, p. 163) was made of a thin, flat piece of wood, usually matai, 12 to 18 inches in length and shaped in elliptical form with pointed ends. A cord about 4 feet in length was attached to one end and the other end was attached to a handle about 3 feet long. The operator, holding the handle, whirled the instrument with increasing velocity until it emitted a whirring sound which developed into a boom. According to one Maori authority it was used in a ceremony to attract rain when needed by the crops. If so, it cannot be regarded as a children's toy. The example shown in Figure 72b is ornamented with a scroll pattern derived from rafter paintings.

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Various simple forms were made in Polynesia as children's toys.

The whizzer (korohuhu, porotiti, etc.) was made as a children's toy. Best (18, p. 164) describes it as made of thin wood of the same shape as the bull roarer but about 3 inches in length. Two holes were pierced near the middle, a cord passed through both, and the ends tied together. The thumbs were hooked in the bights of the cord loop and according to Best, by timing the outward pull, the piece of wood was made to revolve rapidly both ways alternately as the cord drill is worked. As children, we made them of a circular disc of pumpkin rind but the disc was swung in a circular manner so as to twist the cord loop on either side. After that, it worked like the drill by unwinding and winding up through its impetus. A whizzing sound was made as the disc revolved.


A stringed instrument termed ku rests on the single statement of Canon Stack (2, p. 213) who said it was shaped like a bow about ten inches long out of hard matai. The single string was made of flax fibre and sound was produced by tapping it with a rod. The Hawaiians had a single stringed instrument termed an ukeke. The name probably had an initial glottal stop which converted to Maori would be kutete. Though the presence of the stringed instrument in New Zealand is doubtful, it may be more than a coincidence that ku was also the initial syllable in the established Hawaiian instrument. If the ku was really made in New Zealand, it was probably more in the nature of a child's toy than an adult stringed instrument.

Sounds that are Still

In various parts of Polynesia, the slot gong and the shark-skin drum still beat the time for native dances, and in Hawaii the gourd gong and gourd rattle assist the drum in producing a varied programme for the entertainment of authences. In New Zealand, however, the Maori musical instruments have long been still. Trumpets and flutes were long ago acquired by collectors. Hence the old time instruments now repose mostly in museums and they are only awakened when musicians of another race seek to produce their native sounds in order to fetter them to a European scale.

The most primitive instrument of all, the roria, was replaced by the metal Jew's harp. This became very popular and the name roria was given to it. Great care was taken in buying to select one with a soft enough spring. A lump of sealing wax was attached to the projecting end of the instrument's tongue to still further soften the sound. By using lips, tongue, cheeks, and cupped hands, the players were able to mould the sounds into softer Maori forms and words that courting lovers could understand. The page 269era of the jew's harp passed and I doubt if one could be bought today, let alone played with the old time expressions of friendship and affection.

The vanished shell and wooden trumpets were succeeded, for a while at least, by the readily available cow's horn which, in the North Auckland area particularly, performed the function of calling attention to official announcements and impending events at tribal gatherings. With the share mat we have had in two World Wars, I have wondered whether the cow's horn has in turn been replaced by the military bugle.

In the 'nineties the Taranaki followers of Te Whiti, including my own tribe, established a drum-and-fife band as the wooden fifes made a nearer approach to Maori instrumental music than brass. The attempt to regain Maori music succeeded after much practice and trial and the band was able to play Maori laments in such a way that the whole congregation was able to give vocal utterance in perfect time with the music One of the favourite laments commenced with a reference to the unjust war which broke out at Waitara in 1860.

E kore e pouri tonu Waitara
I whakamamaetia i nga ra i mua ra…
Darkness will not always cover Waitara
That was caused to suffer pain in days gone by…

To me the melancholy wailings of the fifes were instrumental sounds but after I had learned the words of the lament, I could hear the fifes repeating them as if they were human. And so, I imagine, it must have been with the koauau. But now, the fifes of that renaissance period are as silent as the koauau.

The last player of Maori music was probably Iehu Nukunuku of Ngati Porou, mentioned in Andersen's work. If Iehu had had a real Maori instrument when he learned to play, he or someone else had parted with it. To fashion a new instrument, the convenient material provided by the bone of an enemy was no longer available and so Iehu, or whoever made it, had recourse to a 12 inch length of iron gas pipe in which three holes were bored towards the lower end. Best, Andersen, McDonald, and I, on a Dominion Museum field expedition, heard him play at the home of Sir Apirana Ngata in Waiapu in 1923. He was an old man then so even the sound of this hybrid instrument, which bridged the gap between bone and iron, must now be still.

The old gave way to new. The concertina and the accordion penetrated to country districts and were popular with both races. The piano and the violin marked the rise in acculturation. The Maori had a good ear for music and the transition from instruments that somehow retained the sorrows of the past to instruments more expressive of hopes for the future was easy and painless. Individuals have attained skill, and orchestras and page 270bands developed from time to time. The Otaki Maori Brass Band was an outstanding achievement in its day. The words of Maori songs, chants, and laments have been preserved in written pages and in gramophone records but any attempt to reproduce their sounds in music must now be arranged for alien instruments because the koauau and its stone-age comrades are forever mute.