1807 - Savage, John. Some Account Of New Zealand [Hocken Library facsim., 1966] - Chapter 12

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  1807 - Savage, John. Some Account Of New Zealand [Hocken Library facsim., 1966] - Chapter 12
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Music, vocal and instrumental--Musical Instruments--Dancing.

THE music of the New Zealanders is superior to what might be expected. The tone of voice of the natives is, in a considerable degree, melodious; and their instruments such as afford a variety of pleasing simple notes, and serve to beguile the idle hours of the tedium that would otherwise attend them.

The advantages of this great resourse are very general; not confined, as in many other parts of the world, to a few performers, whose vocal powers, or musical acquirements, draw crowded theatres, and enchant thousands; here every man is his own mu-

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sician, and the instrument he plays upon being conveniently portable, he is never at a loss for the means of entertainment.

The music of their songs is generally well adapted to the theme; many of these are of a pathetic nature, others a material, and a great part of them humorous. Those of a pathetic nature are well suited to the subject. The amorous songs appear not so much to depend upon the strain for communicating the sentiment, as upon gesture and grimace, which, in many instances, are both extravagant and indecent. Their humorous songs afford them much entertainment; the subject being such, and the description of it so ludicrous, as, in many instances, to occasion a total suspension of the performance, by the laughter of the audience.

Many of their songs are accompanied by a beating of the breast, which they perform to time, making the breast a sort of natural drum. The effect would not be amiss were

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it not that the beating encreases in violence as the concert proceeds, so that toward the end of a song, a by-stander would be much alarmed for the safety, or, indeed, for the life of the performer.

It is customary for the song to be begun by one person, and, at the end of each verse, all the company join in chorus, beating their breasts as before-mentioned. This union of singing and action they call aro-roikee, and it is a very favorite amusement.

Their songs to the rising and setting sun, are peculiarly well adapted to express their feelings. On the rising of the sun the air is cheerful, the arms are spread out as a token of welcome, and the whole action denotes a great degree of unmixed joy; while on the contrary, his setting is regretted in tones of a most mournful nature; the head is bowed down in a melancholy manner, and every other action denotes their sorrow for his departure.

The song to the moon is of a grave and

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melancholy character, apparently expressive of awe and adoration.

They have songs appropriated to the, meeting and separation of friends, which are equally well adapted to express their sensations.

Their musical instruments are similar to those of many islands of the Pacific. The flute is an instrument in almost universal use; it is about six or seven inches long, with three holes on one side, and one on the other, and open at each extremity. The music produced by this instrument is simple but pleasing, and when a number of performers unite their efforts, sitting in the open air in a native village, it will be found to be very interesting. The effect is considerably heightened by the mild temperature of the climate and the beauty of the scenery.

On this instrument much time and labor is bestowed in carving and inlaying with portions of the ear shell. The particular

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pattern principally depends upon the owner's fancy, but it frequently happens that neither the ornamental parts, or the form of the instrument itself, are strictly decent.

They have another instrument formed of two pieces of wood bound together, so as to produce a tube about the size of a fife, whose figure is bellied out about midway, and at which part they make a small hole. 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.

Thus it will appear that though the music of New Zealand is not remarkable for its variety, yet it affords an ample fund of amusement to the natives, particularly their humorous lays, which I have seen, in some instances, produce such violent and tumultuous mirth as could scarcely be exceeded.

The dancing of the natives of New Zealand is, I imagine, similar to that prac-

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tised in many islands of the Pacific Ocean. It appears to be merely intended to promote cheerfulness, but as their modes of expressing cheerfulness are unrefined by education, and unrestrained by the customs of the country, they frequently are such as to violate the laws of delicacy in point of gesture, grimace, and other accompaniments: they are, indeed, so faulty in this respect, that I shall not enter into a description of them.

The natives, like most other men in a state of nature, have no idea of half measures; thus, if they dance, they enter so much into the spirit of the amusement as to exhaust themselves by excessive fatigue.

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