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date: 14 October 2019


  • Mervyn McLean


Drums of Polynesia.

(1) Slit drum of western Polynesia. It was present in Tonga in pre-Contact times, and in 1784 Captain Cook reported it as between 90 and 120 cm long, twice as thick as a man and entirely hollowed with an 8 cm slit running its full length. It was beaten to accompany dance with two sticks about 30 cm long and ‘as thick as the wrist’. It produced a powerful sound and different notes were obtained by beating the drum in the middle or near the end. By the 1970s the nafa was used only to accompany the me’etu’upaki dance; for other purposes it has been displaced by the lali. In Samoa it was rare by 1897 and is now obsolete; it is thought to have been a medium-sized drum played with two sticks like the Tongan nafa. In other places the nafa resembles those of Tonga and Samoa. In Tikopia it is a short trough of carved wood, beaten as a sounding board to mark the rhythm of the dance. In Tuvalu it is a rectangular slit drum about 120 cm long with a narrow slot. It is beaten, like the smaller ...

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