Instruments at Merrie Monarch

I’ve had a few questions about some of the percussion instruments percussion seen at Merrie Monarch so I thought I’d provide a bit of information.

I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post the gourd drum, the single gourd (ipu) and double gouard (ipu heke). These are gourds that have the seeds removed; the insides sanded down, etc. When the bottom of the gourd hits the floor/pad you hear the base sound and then the other beats are made as the open palm hits the side of the gourd drum.  We also saw a smaller feather decorated gourd during Keali’i Ceballos’Halau Keali’i O Nalani’s ancient hula Friday night. The top of teh gouard is decorated with feathers on the top and extending over he top. There’s was very nice with brown and yellow gold feathers. The gourd drum is not very heavy because its is hollow.

The pahu is a large base drum (box/barrel drum). It is heavy and is quite large.

We also saw the knee drum during Kumu Ellen Castillow’s Halau Hula O Pukaipapuao Kalani’s ancient hula. Dancers chant as they tie this drum above their knee and use it for sound.

The ‘ili ‘ili are 4 smooth rocks held in the hands and rythmically tapped together make an impressive sound (not to mention that dancers are doing this, dancing, and often chanting at the same time).

Last night we saw the single bamboo stick pu’ili, hit the arm, hand or wrist. We often see two used together.  These are a piece of bamboo that has one end cut in kind of like a broom to make the noise.  I believe in this dance they were making the sound of rain.  Tapped sounds like it is soft but trust me being hit in the face with one of those is not pleasant.

Halau I Ka Weiku not only used the treadle board from Kaua’i in their kahiko hula Friday night but also the kala’au sticks. The teadle board is  is a board placed on another smaller piece that the dancer stands on and steps forward and back on to make the beat sound. The kala’au sticks are round branches that have been stripped. They can be small about a foot or as tall or taller than the dancer and they are struck together to make the sound. Often the dance is coreographed so that the dancers hit each other’s kala’au at some point which is very impressive and takes lots of precision, courage and trust.

We also heard some shells rattle as one of the wahine groups (Halau Hula o Hokulani) entered on Friday night that was very dramatic.

Of course dancers use their feet, hands and body also. We saw this many times and Halau Ke Kia’i a o Hula’s men’sancient hula showed this impressively.

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