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date: 05 July 2020

Ma’wo [mawu, mawuwi]locked

  • Mary Riemer-Weller
  • , revised by Richard Keeling


[mawu, mawuwi]

Musical bow of the native peoples of northern California and the San Joaquin Valley. The Yokut name is ma’wo; the Maidu term mawu or mawuwi; other Maiduan groups call it pan’da, and the Kato name is cele (‘singing’). It is the only string instrument used by native peoples of California, but musical bows are also found among the Tlingit of Alaska and the Carrier of northwest Canada. Among some Maiduan groups the bow was made especially for musical purposes and used by shamans for communicating with spirits. Some authorities say the shaman’s bow was rubbed with human blood. Most cultures including the Yokuts use a normal hunting bow, but more elaborate versions with a central bridge are also found. The Yurok played a regular hunting bow for amusement. The quiet bow sound was sometimes augmented by humming.

The method of playing was similar for all types. The bow was held in the left hand with most of the instrument projecting towards the player’s right side. The wooden part of the lower end, or sometimes the string, was held between the teeth or in front of the open mouth; the string was either plucked with the fingers of the right hand, or was struck lightly with the fingernails, a twig, or a bone. The mouth cavity was used as a resonating chamber and different notes could be produced by varying its size and shape....

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