The Maori - Volume II
XII Social Customs—Continued. The Arts of Pleasure—Vocal and Instrumental Music
XII Social Customs—Continued. The Arts of Pleasure—Vocal and Instrumental Music
The Maori love of song—Intoning a common practice—Appreciation of euphony and rhythm—Rhyme unknown—Quarter tones—Maori singing monotonous to our ears—The universal hianga—Songs difficult to translate—Euphony gained by word mutilation—Laments—Songs composed for trivial reasons—Lament for a pig—Songs introduced into speeches—History taught in songs—Different classes of songs—Subjects of songs—Musical Instruments—The simpler European instruments alone appeal to Maori—The pu-torino—Flutes—The koauau—A wife won by flute playing—The nose flute—Unmusical instruments—The pu-kaea or trumpet—A gourd instrument—The shell trumpet—The bullroarer—Its ceremonial use—The pahu or gong—Tree gongs—The true drum unknown—The pakuru—The roria—The ku—A first attempt at a string instrument.
Although singing forms no important element in our lives, such a remark cannot be employed in connection with the Maori folk. For these people made much use of song in order to express their feelings and thoughts. When we are listening to one of our race delivering a speech, ceremonial or otherwise, it would come as a surprise to us were he to break into song every now and again. Yet this is just what the Maori does. He seems to be nearer to the age of song than we are, as though it had been, in the misty past, an attribute of primordial man that has become gradually weakened as man has advanced in general culture. Certain anthropologists seem to think that human speech was originally sung or chaunted, and assuredly there is some evidence in favour of such an assumption.
Apart from the racial love of song inherent in the Maori, the writer has ever been much impressed and interested by the page 136 intense love of the people for the two qualities of rhythm and euphony. Evidence of this is noted particularly in the strong penchant the Maori has for intoning many such vocal expressions as would by us be delivered in an ordinary conversational tone of voice. A good illustration of this has already been given in the account of how the old-time native enquired the name of a stranger. The brief phrase employed was not spoken, it was intoned, as: “Na wai taua-a?” The reply thereto was rendered in a similar manner. Now only barbaric man would evolve or preserve such a peculiar usage. This peculiarity of the Maori is ever in evidence, and any person residing among the natives has opportunities of noting illustrations of it. Whenever the emotions of the Maori are stirred, then he is prompted to indulge in song. Hence these forms of expression are observed in connection with the most prosaic occurrences. The simplest form of recital uttered by even a child is delivered with such modulations of tone as to render it euphonious and grateful to the ear. This is an aspect of Maori mentality that the writer wishes to impress upon the reader.
Closely connected with the foregoing quality was the partiality of the Maori for metaphor, allegorical expressions mystic and mythopoetic phrases, and aphorisms. In speech he utilised myth and tradition to point his utterances, and also employed innumerable personifications in an apt and pleasing manner. For these reasons the translation of native songs is almost invariably a difficult matter, unless one can obtain enlightenment from one who is acquainted with the figurative expressions, sacerdotal terms, old sayings, allusions to old myths, and cryptic utterances that they contain. The more a person studies native songs, the stronger becomes his desire to leave their translation to others.
The Maori poet had, as one would surmise, no knowledge of rhyme; his aim was a rhythmical flow of words. Presumably rhyme would scarcely be suitable for his peculiar mode of singing; its effect would be lost or dissipated in the long-drawn-out hianga that formed the termination of lines or sentences. Mr. J. A. Davis, in his remarks on Maori songs, published in Sir George Grey's Polynesian Mythology, refers page 137 to the lack of metre and rhythm of any marked character. In the case of laments, love songs, etc., such as were brought under Mr. Davis's notice, the effect on our ears is undoubtedly monotonous. The quarter tones indulged in by natives do not meet with approval among Europeans.
So far as can be ascertained by a person utterly ignorant of vocal music, melody, to the native ear, seems to be produced by slight modulations of the voice and lengthened vowel sounds, not only in the form of the hianga described above, but also, in some cases, in the middle of a line. No good monograph has, however, ever appeared concerning the songs and singing of our native folk.
“Kia wharikitia mai koe e o tipuna-e-e
Ki te whariki pounamu, e hine-e-e-i.”
The Maori has a keen ear for the reo irirangi, or “spirit voice,” heard when several persons are singing together. It is on such phenomena as this that barbaric man is apt to base mythopoetic fancies.
Europeans complain that native songs are tuneless, but no Maori will agree to this, and he will decline to render a song if he be unacquainted with the rangi (air or tune) thereof. This word rangi is also employed to denote a stanza, verse, or division of a song; whiti and upoko bear the same meaning. Many writers have praised sentiments expressed in native songs, but few ever venture to praise native singing.
There are, of course, different styles of singing, and the charge of being monotonous assuredly cannot be brought against the rendering of such effusions as ngeri and war songs, or the songs accompanying posture dances. Among these last may be found the nearest approach to the humorous song that the Maori achieved, though most of such productions rather emphasised the ridiculous than showed what we would term humour.
A serious difficulty encountered in the translation of these songs is found in alteration of word forms for the sake of euphony. Thus vowels may be inserted, elided, or altered, or an extra syllable may be added to a word. Again, not only do song makers employ archaic expressions and resurrect obsolete words, but they also sometimes coin a word.
It has been said that many old songs call for a great deal of explanation, and this is so with regard to those that include references to old customs, myths and historical occurrences. Again, a single reference may confuse the would-be translator. When Wi Tapeka, father of my worthy old friend Paitini, of Rua-tahuna, died, his widow composed a lament for him, of which the following is a part: “Now lone am I, as, sitting here, I vainly strive my fleeting thoughts to calm. Oh friends! What can be done to soothe the pain that racks me? Bear me to water side and there efface my love for him to whom I clung as clings the clasping vine to forest tree, when I was but a girl and he was but a lad. But now all lone am I, and restless is my sleep as that of mateless bird.” Now here we have matter that is quite clear save the remark anent bearing the bereaved one to the water in order that her sorrow and love may be lessened or effaced. This is a reference to the rite called miri aroha, by means of which such emotions were banished or effaced. It was performed by a priest who conducted the person to a stream, and there sprinkled her or him with water during the conduct of the ceremony.
In some forms of song, such as lullabies sung to a child, one often encounters numerous references to old myths, beliefs, and historical incidents that will utterly confuse the translator page 140 and render his task a futile one, unless he be acquainted with them. Songs taken down by a person not conversant with such references show that the collector often fails to detect proper names. Many times has the writer committed such errors, and truly do they lead to much confusion. To even make a partial success of translating these native songs one must devote a great deal of study to Maori lore generally.
I have before me a long lament for a dead child. It covers seven foolscap pages and is a fine composition divided into nine whiti. One of these commences as follows: “Alas! O little one! How I recall your gambols on the plaza, and your running laughing to my door. These memories abide to gnaw at my heart as does the demon death, now that you have entered the portals of the spirit world. O child! Arise once more and speak with me.”
This appeal to the dead to return to life is frequently met with. One such is: “O Hiku, sleeping there, cease thy slumbers. Bestir thyself and rise ere sinks the westering sun.” Again, a mother addresses her dead son in song: “The Mist Maid hovers over Puke-hinau where passed my beloved child. Turn back, O son! Return to me that I may weep anew.”
“Oppressed was I with vague and nameless fears
Perturbing to the mind.
Who truly are you who thus afflicts me?
Causing with warnings vague and formless fear
This restlessness within me.
Was it indeed you, O cherished one;
Who would have thought that you would go, O Rangi?
Wearily inclines my body, as here
Within Puhirangi I sit and weep.
Afar the Sea Maid surges restlessly;
But you have gone, borne on ocean streams
To far Tawhiti-nui, to Tawhiti-pamamao,
To the Hono-i-wairua on Irihia;
Fare bravely on to Hawaiki-rangi;
page 141 Grasp in your hand the gyrating way
By which Tane ascended to realms supernal.
Pass ye within the Rauroha
To be welcomed by celestial maids within Rangiatea;
Then shall fade all memories of this world
O maid of mine!”
In this lament, collected from a descendant of the bereaved mother, we have a number of proper names that it is highly necessary to know the application of. As explained heretofore, two are names of far lands whereat the ancestors of the Maori sojourned in long past times. Then comes the meeting place of spirits and the place wherein the souls of the dead are purified; then the names of places in the uppermost of the twelve heavens. The opening lines refer to an ominous dread that assailed the mother ere her child died. She farewells the soul of her child out across the vast ocean as it flits back to Irihia, the ancient homeland of the race, where, on a mountain bearing the same name, the Four Way Path meets in the Spirit House. She tells the child to ascend by the path of Tane, the whirlwind, to the uppermost heaven, there to be welcomed by the Mareikura, the celestial maids of the realm of Io the Parent. Then comes the final stage, the fading away of all memories of this world.
The reader can now see how much explanation is needed with regard to the rendering of Maori songs. Such songs, with the necessary explanations, illustrate to no mean extent native beliefs, myths and mentality. These laments are termed tangi, or waiata tangi.
Nothing was too trivial to serve as subject for a song. In a MS. book containing some 400 native songs, I note one that was composed by a man who had lost his fish hook. Another bewails the loss of an eel pot; yet another the loss of a pet bird. One describes the sad thoughts of a man afflicted with skin disease, and another the self pity of a man whose wife had deserted him. In this last I may possibly be in error in describing the cause as a trivial one. Presumably she was the only wife he had.
One of the most peculiar songs that the writer has come across is one composed as a lament for a pig that had died, leaving many friends disconsolate in the world of life. It page 142 was the first pig that had been acquired by the tribe, hence it had a wide circle of friends.
The facility with which natives compose songs is quite remarkable, though they have nought to do with the difficulty of seeking rhymes. Songs of modern composition are often largely composed of selections from old ones. In olden times some few persons were famed for the number of songs they had composed. A frequent cause of song-making was the desire to square accounts with some person who had offended or insulted the composer. Such effusions were often of the haka type, and were accompanied by posture dancing.
whereas it should be written as a single line. The next line runs:
“Te rongo o te tuna
E hau mai ra
Kai Te Papuni, kai a Wharawhara-a.”
“Nou te whakatau ‘Te uri o Mahanga whakarere kai, whakarere waka-a’”and the next:
“Te uri a Tuhoe moumou kai, moumou taonga, moumou tangata ki te Po-o.”Observe the lengthened vowel sound at the end of each line. All words of the native tongue end in a vowel. In this song the final vowel of each line is so lengthened, whichever vowel it may chance to be.
Almost all natives are singers, after the manner of their kind. This is most noticeable at meetings, when a man, while delivering a speech, will break into song. One after another his party rise and join in the song. At its conclusion they reseat themselves, and the speaker continues his remarks. News was often conveyed in song. Thus when Governor King returned two natives of New Zealand to their homes in 1793, he explains that their friends related to them the tribal news per medium of a song.page 143
This is solely for the sake of euphony, it is a euphonious glide, and the comma on either side of it has no proper place in either line.
“Waiho ra, ē, me ata kaupehi iho-e-e
Kia ata tukutuku ra, ē, i te ahorangi-e-e.”
“Yonder is Vega, encircler of the heavens.”
“Descend, O sun, sink into the abyss.”
“Yon dark cloud raised on high.”
“Yonder the lightning flashes in the heavens.”
“As shades of evening come I recline on my couch.”
Prominent natural features are also alluded to:
“Yonder looms the headland of Poronui.”
Abbreviations of the initial word of such lines are also met with, as in “Nei ka noho,” wherein nei stands for tenei. Also in “Ra te haeata,” where ra stands for tera.
“Yonder the thrush bird sings
I-a-i-a-u. I-a-i-a. E-ia.”
The teaching of historical incidents, traditions, myths, etc., by means of song has been alluded to. Not that such matters were inserted in detail in such songs; they were alluded to so as to familiarise children with the names of characters, incidents, etc. Further instruction would follow in later years. Song was employed by the Maori to an extent utterly unknown in civilised communities. The finest native songs are all old compositions, and it is in such that one meets with interesting examples of poetic imagery.
In his remarks on the Maori Captain Cook wrote: “They sing with some degree of melody the traditions of their forefathers, their actions in war, and other indifferent subjects, of all which they are immoderately fond, and spend much of their time in these amusements, and in playing on a sort of page 144 flute.” Forster, who accompanied Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific, wrote as follows: “The taste for music of the New Zealanders, and their superiority in this respect to other nations of the South Seas, are to me stronger proof in favour of their heart than all the idle eloquence of philosophers in their cabinets can invalidate.”
Waiata tangi A lament Waiata karakia A ritual formula Waiata aroha A love song Waiata whaiaipo A sweetheart song Waiata whaiwhaiā A sorcerous song Waiata popo A lullaby
Tau is another word that denotes a song, but is apparently confined to certain classes of song, i.e., to ceremonial songs and others connected with certain functions or actions. Thus the tau marae enters into the formal reception of visitors on the plaza of a village. The tau manu is a ceremonial chaunt rendered by a party of fowlers when returning to the village with the vessels of preserved birds that have been prepared in a bush camp. The tau waka is a time chaunt sung when hauling a canoe. Haka have already been explained.
Puha and peruperu are war songs delivered with fierce energy and gesticulation. Mataara pa and whakaaraara pa are watch songs sung by sentinels, really night watchmen, within fortified villages. Kite, mata and matakite are prophetic or divinatory songs sung by a seer who thus discloses the oracular utterances of his god, or familiar. Whakatea denotes an upbraiding composition, such as might be sung to a defeated war party on its return home, while the manawa wera was a similar effusion, in singing which the singers would be clad in old, ragged garments. The pioi is a song of exultation sung by the members of a victorious raiding party on its return.
The tangi may not necessarily be a lament for the dead. It may be a song expressing self-commiseration, or it may simply bewail the loss of a fish hook. The tangi taukuri seems to express self pity. The tangi tikapa, or tangi whakakurepe denotes wordless wailing accompanied by such action as swaying the body, quivering the hands, etc. It was much practised during mourning rites.
The umere is a variety of haka that serves as a pæan, as when women greet returning fishermen laden with a good take. The hautu waka or tuki waka are canoe songs, while the to waka is the chaunt of men when hauling a canoe, as from the forest, or over a portage. The ko kumara, or whakatapatapa kumara, are work songs chaunted by those preparing the soil for the sweet potato crop, of which more anon. All work songs come under the generic term of tewha.
Atahu and iri are terms applied to a singular class of songs of a semi-ritual form that are believed to influence persons at a distance, like the tangi tawhiti. The proceedings are described elsewhere. The keka or tukeka is a form of lament, the whakawai a beguiling song, as one sung while a person is being tattooed, to enable him to endure the pain with composure. The harihari is a form of time song; hari and maire denote certain songs, while ruriruri and patere are possibly applied differently as in different districts. Other terms there are applied to various kinds of songs, but let the above list suffice—kei hoha koutou—lest ye become wearied.
An old woman bemoans her lone life.
A song sung by a captive bird.
A song attributed to the mosquito.
A song said to be sung by the fairies of the forest.
Complaining of a scarcity of food.
page 147 A prophetic vision as to the issue of a coming fight.
By a woman because a person had slapped her.
Song of the Mist Maid when she abandoned her earthly husband.
By a man because his wife had laughed at him.
Reviling a person who had stolen a pig.
By a woman accused of inhospitality.
By a woman accused of loose conduct.
By a man vilifying his wife who had deserted him.
A lullaby sung by a childless woman to a doll.
Lament of a person suffering from illness.
Many other subjects might be mentioned, but again let these suffice. And here it were well to conclude these remarks on native songs, inasmuch as the writer is not competent to descant further upon them. Let those who have music in their souls take up the task.
Prof. E. B. Tylor wrote as follows:—“Much of poetic art lies in imitating the expressions of earlier stages, when poetry was the natural utterance of any strong emotion, the natural means to convey any solemn address or ancestral tradition.” This writer points out how early man talked in metaphors taken from nature, not for poetic affectation, but merely to find the plainest words to convey his thoughts; that the purpose of poetry was to be chaunted, not recited or read as with us.
To close this portion of our discourse let us scan a few lines from a lullaby sung over an infant:
“Wail, O maid! We are but survivors of the battlefield at Rawhiti-roa, of the field of combat where perished Purupuru, when fled we from Pae, from Kahu-tauranga, from Kahu-tapere, from Rakai-pāka; abandoned was our home at Turanga-nui-a-Rua.”
Now, could anything in the way of a theme be more inappropriate than the above to sing to an infant, from our point of view. But the Maori by this means induced children to ask questions, as they grew older, concerning songs they knew so well. And thus knowledge was acquired.
One might well think that the subject of the musical instruments of a barbaric folk such as the Maori might well be disposed of in a few words. Yet one notes many things of interest in connection with the crude arts and accomplishments of such folk, hence I find that my notes under this page 148 heading amount to sixty foolscap sheets of manuscript. Being of a merciful disposition, however, I will not inflict all this matter upon the reader.
The Maori had made some little advance in one direction only in connection with this subject, and that was in the line of wind instruments. His instruments of percussion were exceedingly primitive, and he had done practically nought in the way of evolving stringed instruments. We have one brief note concerning an extremely crude attempt at a stringed instrument that may or may not have been pre-European. Nor does the Maori appear to possess much admiration for stringed instruments; he is much more attracted by a brass band. Concertinas, accordeons and mouth organs appeal to him, but I have never seen a Maori with what we were wont to call a fiddle, the violin of more polite modern nomenclature. Had the Maori used the bow he might possibly have evolved some sort of musical instrument therefrom, but the bow and arrow he would have nought of.
Earle remarks that the Maori disliked the violin, or, perchance, his style of playing it, hence he found it highly useful when he wished to get rid of native visitors. He observes, however, that it had a wonderfully exciting effect on some natives of Tikopia Island, a Polynesian colony in Melanesia. Dr. Thomson wrote of the Maori: “Their hearing is acute, and their perception of musical time accurate, but the simplest melodies are alone agreeable. Delightful music falls upon their ears without exciting emotion, while a noisy drum keeping time gives pleasure. When Captain Cook was at Dusky Sound in 1773 he had the bagpipes, fife and drum played to some natives. He remarks: “The two first they did not regard, but the latter caused some little attention in them.” He also states that the drum was the only instrument that the Tongans paid any attention to.
Two Pu torino in Dominion Museum, Wellington.
H. Hamilton photo
No precise descriptions of native instruments are given by any of the early writers. The terms fife and flageolet employed by them were probably applied to the pu torino. The pipe or whistle was evidently the koauau, which was said to have from two to five holes. A statement made by an early writer that the Maori had an instrument resembling pan pipes is incorrect; that instrument pertained to Melanesia.
We will take the several instruments in detail, commencing with the pu torino, an instrument that has been compared to the flageolet or piccolo. These instruments are usually about sixteen to eighteen inches in length, some are longer. The mouthpiece is at one end, the other end being brought to a point and either left solid or pierced with a small hole. It was used as a mouth instrument only, those played as nose instruments being much smaller. It has no series of holes or stops, merely one large aperture in the middle, of an oval form, for it usually serves as the mouth of a grotesque head carved on the upper surface of the instrument. As seen in the illustration this pu, at it is called, the same being a generic term, is considerably wider in the middle than at the ends. Parkinson gives a very fair description of this instrument, but apparently both ends of the specimen he described were open. He speaks of the sound emitted as being harsh and shrill. The present writer has never heard the pu torino sounded, and has met no European who has. Accounts of the sound of the koauau, or flute, as given by early writers, differ widely, hence one feels somewhat dubious concerning their remarks about it.
Parkinson's account of the manufacture of the pu torino is as follows:—It was made in two pieces, each of which was carefully shaped and hollowed out, and fitted together. It was then bound round in several places in a remarkably neat manner, the binding material being fine aerial rootlets of plants, or stems of climbers or creepers. Decorative carving occurs in the middle and at the end, occasionally elsewhere. Parkinson calls it a trumpet, and the one he described was nine- page 151 teen and a half inches in length. It is worthy of note that the small aerial rootlets of the kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii) were much employed for lashing purposes. The bark was scraped off them, and they were split down the middle, and so formed a supple, strong and durable binding material. Forster describes a pu torino seen in possession of some natives of the Wellington district at Queen Charlotte Sound as being open at both ends. The late Hari Wahanui, of Waikato, informed me that the middle hole was stopped with the fingers.
Dr. Savage, who visited the far north in 1805, seems to have seen another specimen open at both ends. “This instrument is inflated at one extremity, while the other is occasionally stopped and opened so as to produce some variety in the modulation of the sound.” So that apparently there were two forms of this instrument and two modes of playing it. Dr. Savage remarks that the specimen he saw had a small hole in the middle, whereas it is usually a large one. A specimen in the museum at Hastings is interesting as illustrating the working methods of native carvers. Though old, it is unfinished, in that the carving of the decorative designs has not been completed. Various well executed curvilinear designs have been scratched or incised on its surface, but no actual carving has been done.
Earle, another early sojourner in New Zealand, wrote as follows: “Another instrument is formed of two pieces of wood hollowed out and then bound together, the centre is bellied out, and has a small hole; it is blown into at one end, and the other is occasionally stopped to produce variety.” This small hole in the middle is not a mark of specimens seen in our museums, for in these it is of considerable size. A few songs have been collected that are said to have been sung to the pu torino.
Mr. White, in his ethnographical notes, terms this instrument a pu hoho, the latter being presumably a sound word. The favoured material for this and many other instruments was the heart wood of the matai (Podocarpus spicatus). The hole in the middle, which was on the upper side, was made larger than the end aperture. Also he remarks that the instrument emitted a hoho sound, which is enlightening. He then page 152 makes a few remarks that really appeal to one, to wit: “This kind of flute was not played in the village, or where people were assembled, but at some distance away. It was not so effective in attracting women as the whio. Sometimes women would be charmed by it, and sometimes not. It depended on the player.” Truly this remark might be applied to many instruments. Another remark is to the effect that some players so sounded the instrument as to make the sounds resemble the words of a song.
A specimen in the Dominion Museum has a central orifice ⅞in. by ⅝in. The outer end shows no opening whatever. The two end lashings are countersunk, but not so the intermediate ones. There is no sign of any putohe or tonsil in the interior, and it is embellished with three carved heads, the eyes of which consist of pieces of bright Haliotis shell. Another specimen in the same Museum also lacks the opening at the outer end. Two of these pu of a curious double form are known, one of which is in the British Museum.
Information obtained from a few natives in former years shows us that the instrument was blown from the end, and that the central hole was stopped with the fingers. That is all we know concerning the pu torino.
There was possibly a form of flute in pre-European times that was longer than the koauau, and yet cannot be confused with the instrument described above. A specimen possessed by Dr. Shortland was twenty-two inches in length, and its maximum width was one and a half inches. It was straight and apparently fashioned from a piece of tutu (Coriaria), the pith of which had been extracted. One end had been stopped with a piece of wood, and the whole was elaborately carved. It seems to have been blown from the end and had three stops. Dr. Buller remarked that it had a rich note. Within the tube, and about two inches from the sounding orifice, was an artificial constriction with an opening in the centre of about three-sixteenths of an inch, the size of the stops. This reminds one of the putohe or tonsil of the pu kaea, of which more anon. An east coast native stated that the tuteure was a form of flute longer than a koauau, but shorter than a pu torino, to which a form of words was sung, or breathed.page 153
The koauau is an old native instrument about which we can give some definite information. After making many enquiries concerning this article, and considering much evidence, the writer has come to the conclusion that it was primarily a mouth flute, but that occasionally, as in the case of an expert player, it was used as a nose flute. The proper nose flute was, however, of quite a different form. This koauau was widely used, and a number of fine old specimens of the stone age of these isles are preserved in various museums. They were often carried about suspended from the neck of the owner, even as, after the arrival of Europeans, the Maori carried his clay pipe thrust through a hole in his ear.
Hari Wahanui once played one of these instruments for the writer's benefit, the tune being that of a native song. The note was pleasing. He remarked that the three stops should not be equi-distant from each other, but vary somewhat. He possessed a fine old one fashioned from a human thigh bone, that of a tribal enemy of a long-past generation. These instruments were fashioned from the wood of the matai, tutu, neinei (Dracophyllum), and occasionally poroporo (Solanum), also from human bone as we have seen. Polack is one of the few writers who states that they were sometimes fashioned from the bones of relatives.
An old native explained to me the curious method by which the pith of a piece of tutu was removed when a flute was to be made from that material. When the section was dry, a live coal of hardwood was placed on the pith at one end, and this the operator kept blowing on, so that it gradually destroyed the pith. This process was worked from both ends until the whole of the pith was removed. To possess a flute fashioned from the thigh bone of an enemy gave great satisfaction to the owner—of the flute.
Dr. Savage (1805) speaks of these flutes as being six or seven inches long, and having three holes on one side and one on the other, open at each extremity, elaborately carved, and inlaid with pieces of shell. Nicholas (1815) gives a similar description, and speaks of their pleasing notes. Colenso and Dieffenbach also state that they had four holes. Flutes found in South Island middens are said, in some cases, to have page 154 been fashioned from large wing bones of the albatross. A correspondent who saw a native using a koauau as a nose flute remarked that fingers of both hands were used on the stops, and that the right nostril was stopped with the right thumb.
Many of these flutes have a small projection on one side which is pierced with a hole to contain the cord for suspension. Many are entirely covered with well-executed carved designs, often composed of very fine lines, showing what neat work could be done with stone implements. As already explained, some were so designed as to resemble a phallus. In one recently examined the three holes were by no means equidistant. The first was ⅞in. from the end of the instrument; the second 1in. from the first, and the third 2⅝in. from the second. All three holes were surrounded by small rings of the bright-coloured shell Haliotis iris. The bore was ⅝in. at the orifices. The outside was finely carved.
An old bone koauau examined is seven inches in length, and has three stops, all on one side. The ends are adorned with carved heads, and a hole in the middle has been pierced to receive the cord for suspension. Another bone specimen is but four and a half inches in length, and this also has the three holes on one side.
The late Mr. White described an instrument that he called a whio (whistle) that seems to be the same as the koauau, save that he remarks that it was made by hollowing out two pieces of wood, and then lashing them together. We know of no koauau so formed. He stated that it had three stops on the upper side, and one underneath. The thumb operated the latter and the fingers the upper ones. He then goes on to speak of a base act of deception sometimes practised on innocent young women in days of old. A young man who desired a certain girl would learn that she much appreciated the dulcet tones of the flute. If unable to play the instrument himself he would arrange with a musical friend to do it for him. He would only consent to play when the hut was in darkness, and then the friend would take a seat near him and do the playing. Thus the fair maid would be charmed, and, if he managed to secure her for his wife, he would reward his musical friend with a gift. “Of course,” continues our page 155 authority, “the wife would discover later how grossly she had been deceived by the impostor, but what could be done—he had got the woman.”
A form of flute called rehu, having three stops on its upper side, but none on the lower side, is described by the above writer. It seems to have been blown from the side, but the description is not very clear. He mentions another that was merely a hollow tube, lacking holes in the sides, and says that only a few experts could play it. He adds: “When well played women could not resist it.”
Moser applies the term rehu to the gourd described below, but he was not a Maori linguist and may have been in error. White tells us that flutes were fashioned by natives from bones of Marion du Fresne and his hapless countrymen who were slaughtered at the Bay of Islands in the 18th century.
There is some slight evidence to the effect that the Maori used a peculiar form of wooden whistle for signalling purposes. It is said that it resembled a tongue in form. Apparently no specimens have been preserved.
The nguru, or nose flute, is an interesting instrument of singular form, as seen in the illustration. The curved end is its peculiarity. The writer has never seen a wooden specimen, but a number of stone nguru are in our museums, and one fashioned from a whale's tooth is in the Williams collection at Hastings. We are told that it was sounded by applying the small end to the nostril, the other nostril being closed by pressure from one of the thumbs.
The ivory specimen alluded to above is five and a quarter inches in length, and its greatest width is one and three-quarter inches. The orifice at the big end is thirteen-sixteenths inches; that at the small end is slightly over one-quarter inch at the lip, but decreases in diameter within. The boring from the big end has been well performed. The whole outer surface is finely carved, including a female figure in relief two and three-quarter inches long. There are two stops on the inner or concave side, but a part of the big end has been destroyed; there may have been another. There is another small hole on the outer side, situated close to the aperture at the small end, in fact only five-eighths of an inch from it. A page 156 page 157 small piece of Haliotis shell is countersunk above the head of the female figure. There is another ivory nguru in the Harper Collection, two wooden ones in the Salem Museum, another in the British Museum.
These nguru must have been bored from both ends, and the task would be a most tedious one with the exceedingly primitive Maori drill, especially in the case of stone and ivory. There are no less than seven stone nose flutes in the Auckland Museum, as also good specimens of koauau, pu-torino, and other forms.
Crozet describes how he heard nose flutes played at the Bay of Islands. He alludes to their “fairly sweet but at the same time discordant sounds,” which seems somewhat puzzling. A small stone nguru in the Auckland Museum is but three inches in length. The stop on the outer or convex side is only three-eighths of an inch from the small end of the instrument. The nose flute seems to have been used right across the Pacific from eastern Polynesia to Borneo, and from New Zealand to the Hawaiian Islands. Banks tells us that the Tahitian form produced four notes. Parkinson states that the sounds were “rude and ungrateful.” Cook says that their flutes had but two stops, and that only one tune was ever heard to proceed from them.
We have but few notes as to how these flutes were played; apparently they were mostly sounded from the end like a pipe. Of the small bone instruments found in middens we have apparently no reliable information as to the manner in which they were played.
We have now come to the end of the genuine musical instruments of the Maori. Those that remain to be described may be termed the unmusical ones, consisting, as they do, of braying, hooting trumpets, doleful gongs, etc.
Colenso states that some had a hole in the middle used as a stop, but I am not aware that any specimen preserved has such an aperture. This writer states that the pu-kaea was occasionally used as a speaking trumpet. He also calls the pu-torino a trumpet, of which the sound was modified by means of placing a hand over the central hole. Angas remarks that the loud roaring sound of the pu-kaea was heard for miles.
A very peculiar feature of some of these trumpets was the tohe or putohe, the larynx or diaphragm, as Colenso terms it. This was some wooden contrivance that was fixed within the tube, and which had some effect on the sound emitted. Dr. Buller termed this contrivance an imitation of the human tonsil. A specimen in the Natural History Museum at New-Castle-on-Tyne, is said to have five projections in its interior, three on one side and two on the other. Another in the estate of the late Dr. Newman of Wellington has two pegs or projections in the tube near the big end, and a third one about six inches from the kongutu or small end.
There are two specimens of the pu-kaea in the British Museum. One with a double whara or bell mouth is a curiosity. Inferior specimens were sometimes fashioned from straight stems of Coriaria (tutu), to which pieces of dressed wood to form the whara were lashed. The tutu, having much pith space, would be easy to work. The writer has seen specimens made from both matai and totara, two species of Podocarpus. The deeply serrated bell shaped mouth is a marked peculiarity. An unusual form has projecting pieces on two sides only of the whara. The cusps of the two flares are somewhat rounded. A specimen in the British Museum is barely thirty inches in length, an unusually short one. It page 160 increases considerably in size from the mouthpiece to its flared outer end; the outer surfaces of the latter part being finely carved.
Forster described the sound of these instruments as uncouth braying. Pu-kaea for temporary use were sometimes formed of Phormium leaves split in half and wound in a spiral manner. The late Mr. W. H. Warren, who devoted some attention to the pu-kaea, stated that it is capable of producing four notes. The two middle notes, G and B, can be produced with exceptional clearness, and are, in fact, far more pleasant to the ear than the C and E of the brass instrument. He was comparing it with the brass bugle. The lengthy bugle calls could not be sounded on it. He found the oval-shaped wooden mouthpiece awkward. Early travellers seem to have heard nought save an unpleasing blare proceed from it, and Forster remarks that it always sounded the same note. A similar instrument, made in the same way, and apparently provided with a tohe, was used by the Iroquois Indians.
Of the gourd instrument we know very little. A specimen in the British Museum consists of a pear-shaped gourd with a hole near the shank, and three more holes on one side at the wide part of the gourd. An attempt has been made to decorate the gourd by means of parallel lines and a vandyke design.
Thomas Moser, in his Mahoe Leaves, mentions one “in the side of which were punctured two or three holes… They succeed in some way peculiar to themselves in extracting a most horrid noise out of the thing.” Let us hope that Thomas heard but an amateur in gourd music. An east coast native stated that his folk used to fashion horns from gourds of an elongated form having a curve at the shank. This was the small end of the gourd. Both ends were cut off, and at the small end a wooden mouthpiece was fitted on.
We are told that, at the Hawaiian Isles, small gourds, pierced with from two to five holes, were swung by means of a cord, and produced a dismal sound. Ellis tells us that, at the same group, they were sometimes used as we do a tambourine.page 161 page 162
The widely-known shell trumpet was here termed pu-tara, pu-tatara, kakara, pu-toto, and potipoti. In Maori myth the first specimens are said to have been made by Tupai, brother of Tane. They were sounded to warn the people on earth that Tane was descending from the twelfth heaven after his famous interview with Io-matua.
This instrument is simply a shell, known as Septa tritonis, a large univalve that is occasionally found on beaches at the northern extremity of the North Island. Its true habitat seems to be further north in the Pacific. Apparently a much smaller local species, Septa rubicundum, was sometimes utilised in the same way. When examining an old native midden on Somes Island, Wellington Harbour, in 1915, my companion, Sergt. Hard, a member of the detachment guarding the German prisoners on the island, found one of these trumpets. This is certainly S. rubicundum. The apex had been cut off, the truncated part ground smooth, and pierced with three holes for lashing on the wooden mouthpiece.
The mouthpieces employed were very carefully fashioned from suitable woods, decorated with carved designs, neatly lashed on, and then an extra adornment in the form of feathers was added. A cord or sling was often attached for carrying, and chiefs sometimes carried a shell horn when travelling. They would sound it when approaching a village.
An old and famed shell trumpet, named Te Umu-kohu-kohu, was presented to Major Alexander, private secretary to Lord Ranfurly, by the Rua-tahuna natives some twenty years ago. It was a prized heirloom of the Whenua-nui family. It was used for signalling the approach of enemies, the return of a raiding party, and by a commanding chief for directing or rallying his force during a fight.
The Maori always fixed the mouthpiece at the conical point of the shell, but at Fiji, Tahiti and elsewhere, a hole was made in the side of it and a piece of hollow reed inserted as a mouthpiece. These horns or trumpets were used for signalling purposes, and as heard by the writer produce an extremely doleful blare or deep hooting sound. Ellis describes the sound as horrific. Cook heard it blown at Tubuai Isle, and speaks of two or three page 163 notes as well as the prolonged hoot. Samoan chiefs employed them as did the Maori, in announcing their approach to a village.
In a paper on these shell trumpets by Mr. J. W. Jackson, the writer shows that they were formerly used over a vast area extending from the Mediterranean to India and right across the Pacific Ocean to America. (See “Nature” of March 2, 1916). Forster, who heard one at Queen Charlotte Sound, says that it produced a hideous bellowing. These instruments were often given special names.
Apologies are assuredly necessary for including the depressing sound-maker, the bullroarer, among musical instruments, but it certainly makes a noise, that much can be vouched for. Truly is it a primitive form, but much used in Australia, New Guinea, and elsewhere. Even as it was employed in old-time sacred mysteries of Greece, so is it used in the above-mentioned lands.
The Maori seems to have preserved some ideas of its strange uses in other lands. Natives have told me that its sound is produced by the soul or spirit of the operator. This looks like a faint memory, and it seems more probable that the old belief was that it was caused by spirits of the dead, or by the gods. However, this is mere conjecture, which is not the province of the present writer.
East coast natives have informed me that the bullroarer was used in olden times in a rain-making rite. Now this is interesting—to us collectors who sojourn in the dark places of the earth. When rain was needed, e.g., for crops, an expert would, during the evening or night, proceed to demand rain. He would sally forth provided with a bullroarer and a handful of ashes. The ashes he would cast toward the rainy quarter, and then he would sound his bullroarer by swinging it in a vigorous manner. At the same time he repeated his incantation, and also proceeded to insult and anger the rainy quarter by turning his back to it and making aggravating gestures. Naturally that quarter of the compass felt deeply insulted and would send a storm of rain and wind to punish the offender, which would be just what he wanted. The charm itself I decline to render into English, for some of its expressions I page 164 can see no sense in. It seems to call upon the heavens to send rain, and explains that the boon craved is but a small one.
In the same district it was deemed unwise to manipulate a bullroarer without just cause. Children would be chided if they did so, and told that the act would produce a rain storm. Some adult would call out: “Kati ra! He taritari marangai tena mahi.” So that, in some parts at least, the instrument was not used as a toy.
The bullroarer is called purerehua, turorohū, purorohū, and huhu. It consists of a thin, flat piece of wood of an elongated oval or lanceolate form, usually a piece of the heart wood of matai, and sixteen to twenty inches in length. Another wood often used for instruments is kaiwhiria, the sounding qualities of which are appreciated. To one end of this object is secured a cord about four feet in length, the other end of which is tied to the handle, a rod some three feet in length. Grasping this rod with both hands, the manipulator whirls the attached slat round with increasing swiftness until it produced a loud booming sound, a whizzing boom as I have heard it described. This primitive implement is a very ancient and widely-used form; in many lands it has been employed for ceremonial purposes. Some of the old Maori specimens were adorned with carved designs. A decorated one is in the British Museum.
The tirango of the east coast was a childish toy that was swung as was a bullroarer. A piece of split supplejack was bent into the form of a bow, and retained in that form by a bowstring consisting of a strip taken from the base of a leaf of bulrush (raupo), which has a very thin edge. When whirled rapidly by means of a cord and rod, this crude toy produces a sound resembling the buzzing of a large fly called rango, hence its name. The sound is caused by the rapid vibration of the thin, paper-like edge of the bulrush leaf base.
The true drum of Polynesia was not used by the Maori, and it is a puzzle to us that he did not introduce it here. In its place he used a form of gong, the pahu, that pertains to Melanesia more than to Polynesia. It is simply one of the many cases in which the Maori folk have adopted Melanesian usages. The true skin-head drum is not known to the Maori; in its place he used two forms of wooden gong fashioned of matai, a Podocarpus. One was a very simple form, being merely a large, hewn slab or plank. The other was fashioned in the form of a canoe, the interior of which was laboriously hollowed out through a comparatively narrow slit on the upper side, as are the great wooden gongs of Melanesia. The latter, however, often seem to be placed vertically in the ground, whereas the two Maori gongs were suspended horizontally between two upright posts. The custom was to so suspend them on the puwhara, or elevated platform in a fortified village on which the night-watchman was stationed. The only specimen of the canoe-shaped gong ever seen by the writer was one that was fashioned by an old Tuhoe native some twenty years ago. It was four feet in length.
These gongs were struck with a wooden club, and this was part of a watchman's duties in times of danger, to let prowling enemies know that the garrison was on the alert. They were also used for signalling purposes. One early writer told us of a form of the slab gong that had a hole in the middle, and the sound was produced by a wooden club being energetically rattled in this aperture. Dr. Thomson gives an illustration of one of these gongs in his “Story of New Zealand.” Mr. White speaks of it as being suspended by one end only. Mr. G. S. Cooper wrote of one that was heard at a distance of twelve miles, but that seems to have been a native's statement, and the Maori loveth exaggeration. It is said to have been very useful for sounding an alarm.page 167
Angas mentions a plank gong seen by him at Otawhao. It was six feet in length and had a groove in the middle; evidently it was not pierced. He speaks of its sound as a most melancholy one. Dr. Thomson tells of one twelve feet in length, and gives the sound range as twenty miles in calm weather, which looks like an exaggeration. Certain natives have asserted that one form of pahu resembled a kumete, or trough, in appearance, and that another form, somewhat resembling a cask in shape, was made in two pieces, which were then lashed together. These statements have not been verified.
In his “Out in the Open” Mr. Potts speaks of a gong used as late as the “eighties,” apparently the slab form; this was in the Waikato district. It was suspended from a pole raised on two forked sticks, and was a piece of kaiwhiria, said to be a timber possessing resonant qualities. Tradition speaks of a slab of greenstone (nephrite) as having been used as a gong in the big fortified village that once covered One Tree Hill at Auckland.
The natives of western Polynesia used the hollowed out form of gong, having probably borrowed it from Melanesia. It does not seem to have been used in eastern Polynesia, where the true drum was used. The hollowed log gong of Tonga appears to have been struck with two beaters, during certain dances. Apparently it was in a horizontal position. Cook states that its tone differed, as when struck in the middle and at the end. The slit-like aperture was about three inches wide. The lali of Fiji is a similar instrument.
The smaller drum of Tahiti was known as to'ere. This in the Maori dialect would be tokere, which is the Maori name for clappers, also called tokerangi. This may not have been a pre-European usage, though some form of clappers seems to have been known in Polynesia. An east coast native stated that the thick basal part of the leaf of Phormium tenax was used for clappers. A short piece was divided, and the operator, holding one-half in each hand, struck one on the other; this primitive form was termed a pākēkē. Another form, known as pakoko, was a similar piece of the leaf base, but the two halves were not entirely seperated. One-half was bent so as to much weaken its rigidity at the place where so bent. The manipulator held the unsplit end, and, by a vigorous flapping movement, caused the weakened part to strike rapidly against the rigid half, thus producing a clapping sound.
Another primitive instrument, known as pakuru and kikiporo, is simply a straight piece of suitable wood, kaiwhiria, matai, or mapara, about fifteen inches in length and one inch in thickness, that was struck with a smaller piece to produce a tapping sound. One end was placed between the teeth of the operator, and the other end he held lightly in the fingers of his left hand. The tapper was held in the right hand. Songs, called rangi pakuru, were sung and accompanied by the tapping. None of these songs or recitals collected by the writer are of any interest; some are simply gibberish.
Some of the old pakuru were adorned with carved designs, and had serrated edges. Sometimes a number of persons page 170 would join in the song and the tapping of pakuru. Colenso states that the tune was hummed by the operator. John White says that the operator breathed the words of the ditty. A tapper of whale's bone was occasionally used. The lips of the operator did not touch the end of the stick as held between the teeth.
We have seen that the Maori applied the name of roria to the introduced jews'harp, but that it was also the name of a very primitive instrument of pre-European days. It was simply a small, flat, thin piece of wood, one end being scraped down to extreme thinness. The thicker end was held in the hand, while the thinner end was placed against the teeth and struck with the finger of the other hand, much as a jews' harp is played.
The name kukau is applied to the jews' harp in some districts, but it is not known if it also pertained to the older form. The latter is said to have been fashioned from a piece of matai, titoki or supplejack. Something of a similar nature has been reported from the Caroline Islands and Samoa, also from Borneo.
Regarding stringed instruments, one is reminded of the old tale about the chapter on the snakes of Ireland. Truly there is little to report. The names ku, to, and torehe have been given as, apparently, the names of instruments formerly possessed by the Maori, but of the last two the writer could gain no information. Concerning the ku the late Canon Stack once wrote: “Do you know anything of the musical instrument called a ku? It was a one-stringed instrument made in the shape of a bow about ten inches long, out of a hard piece of matai. The string was of dressed Phormium fibre. It was held near the ear when played, and the sound was produced by tapping it with a rod.”
And so end my notes on instruments, musical and unmusical of the neolithic Maori.