The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Mafulu.

CHAPTER XIV

Music and Singing, Dancing and Toys and Games

Music and Singing.

The Mafulu people are naturally musical and have good musical ears—­much more so than is the case in Mekeo and on the coast, thus conforming to what I believe to be a general rule that music is usually more indigenous in hill country than it is in the plains.  Their instruments are the drum, the jew’s-harp and a small flute; but the flute is not a true Mafulu instrument, and has probably been acquired from Mekeo.

The drum (Plate 75, Fig. 3) is like the Mekeo drum, but smaller, and its open end is cut in deep indentations.  The wooden body of the drum is made from various trees.  A pine tree is the favourite one; but others are used, including a tree the native name of which is arive, which word is also the native word for a drum.  The membrane is made of the skin of a reptile, probably the “iguana.”  The maker of a drum must climb up the tree from the wood of which he is about to make it, and there, until the drum is finished, he must remain sitting among the branches, or, if these are inconvenient for the purpose, he may erect a scaffold around the trunk of the tree, with a platform on the top of it, and work upon that.  Whilst working, he must always keep the upper or tympanic end of his drum facing the wind, the idea of this being that the wind gets into the drum, and makes it musical.  His food is brought to him, whilst in his tree, by some woman, probably his mother if he is a bachelor, or his wife if he is married, and he lets down a string by which he hauls it up; but he is under no special restriction as to the food he may eat.  There is no superstition, such as is found among the Roro and Mekeo people, compelling him, in the event of his seeing a woman during the making of the drum, to throw it away and begin a new one.

The jew’s-harp (Plate 20, Fig. 2), though seen in Mekeo, is, I was told, as regards its manufacture, an instrument of the mountains.  It is made out of bamboo or palm, or some other tree having a hollow or soft interior, from which is cut a piece about 8 or 10 inches long.  A portion of this piece is cut away longitudinally, leaving for the making of the instrument only two-thirds or half, or even one-third, of the convex outside stem circumference on one side and the flat surface of the cut-away part on the other, and the latter is then hollowed out, leaving, however, a solid head an inch or two long at one end.  The hollow piece thus produced is cut into three longitudinal sections or strips, of which the two outside ones are longer than the central one.  The two outside strips are left at their full width from the head downwards to a distance of 2 or 3 inches from the other end, from which point they are cut away, very much as one would cut away the divided nib of a quill pen, so that the actual tips of these two strips are quite slender,

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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