Conch Trumpets, Flutes and Turquoise Beads, Treasured Items of An Ancient Culture

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-54-44-amDid you know that there was a civilization as advanced as the Mayas discovered in the desert of the Southwestern United States?

A recent article published in Nature Communications, reveals a great deal about this advanced culture that flourished in the area now identified as New Mexico. Matrilineal in nature, one of the most complete digs of this Chacoan culture is a burial chamber – called Room 33 – that consists of elite women rulers and their most treasured items. Not surprisingly, among these items are special pottery, ritual objects, turquoise beads and musical instruments. Although the site is probably hundreds of miles from an ocean, screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-58-10-amRoom 33 includes a conch shell trumpet with a turquoise mouthpiece as well as several different flutes. Clearly music was an integral part of the most valued aspects of this society.

Want to learn more? Below are links to the complete article about the dig in Nature Communications as well as a blog post identifying all the objects in Room 33. Interestingly enough, conch shell trumpets are found throughout the world in a variety of diverse locations.  Below we’ve included links on posts we’ve done so far about conch shell trumpets in Japan, Mexico, Hawaii and Polynesian Cultures.

Links and Resources

Complete Article on the Archeological Dig in Nature Communications http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14115

What’s in Room 33? https://gamblershouse.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/room-33/

Conch Shell Trumpets From Samurai Times In Japan https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/horagai-a-conch-shell-trumpet-from-samurai-times/

The Conch Shell Trumpet in Ancient Mexico https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/instruments-from-ancient-mexico-the-conch-shell-trumpet/

The Conch Shell Trumpet As Part of Hawaiian and Polynesian Culture https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/the-ultimate-make-your-own-hawaiian-instruments-book/

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The Veena – An Instrument Fit For A Goddess!

indian-goddess-veenaAlthough it may look a bit like a sitar, the Indian veena (or vina) is a unique instrument that dates back at least to 1,500 BCE and has its own distinctive place in Hindustani as well as the Carnatic style South Indian music. A person who plays the veena is known as a vainika.

Mentioned throughout ancient texts such as Bhagavata, the veena is often seen being held by Saraswati, the Hindu patron Goddess of learning and the arts. The Goddess is usually depicted seated on a swan and playing the instrument. In addition to Saraswati, Lord Shiva is also depicted as playing or holding a veena in a form known as a Vinadhara,” meaning “bearer of the vina.”

veena

The modern veena (seen above) has quite a few variations as it evolved throughout various regions and playing styles. Generally, a modern veena is a beautifully constructed plucked stringed instrument that is about four feet in length. It has 7 strings, can be fretted or fretless and has a gourd-like resonator, like the sitar. The vainika plays while seated cross-legged and the instrument is tilted slightly away from the player. The veena can be used to play both classical Indian music or contemporary musical songs or themes.

In addition to the modern veena, there is also an ancient veena which is related to the Burmese harp. Arched harps; like the ancient veena, appeared in the artwork of ancient Egypt and India and were also found widely throughout Southeastern Asia and East Africa.

Links and Resources

SRUTI India Music and Dance Society (Philadelphia, PA USA)

http://www.sruti.org/

Dhvani – India Performing Arts Society of Central Ohio (USA)

https://www.dhvaniohio.org/music/music-south-india/

Instruments of India – Kids Mini-Course

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Instruments-of-India-Mini-Course-2682389

Sitar Poster And Coloring Page

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Instruments-From-India-The-Sitar-904627

Horagai – A Conch Shell Trumpet From Samurai Times

A while ago we did a post about conch shell trumpets that date back to ancient Aztec times.  While researching Asian-Pacific Instruments, we found similar shell trumpets in Tibet, Korea, the Pacific Islands and Japan.  Here’s more about the Japanese version of this unique instrument.

Although shell trumpets can be found in various locations around the world, the Japanese versions – Horagai (法螺貝) or jinkai (陣貝) are a bit unusual.  They consist, not only of the large conch shell but also of a wooden or bronze mouthpiece that allows the instrument to make a series of sounds, as opposed to only one loud blast or note.  Most closely connected with Buddhist monks such as the Yamabushi Warrior monks in Japan, each group or school would learn to play the instrument in different ways and to produce different melodies.

Historical records show that horagai was used in various Buddhist rituals that date back at least a thousand years or so.  These shell trumpets can also be seen in present day Japan in religious ceremonies such as the omizutori (water drawing), which is part of the of the Shuni-e rites at the Tōdai-ji in Nara.  When used by the Yamabushi (Ascetic warrior monks of the Shugendo sect) the instrument would both accompany the chanting of sutras or prayers as well as to signal their presence or movements throughout the mountain region where they lived.  Because the temperatures in these high mountains could easily drop below zero, it is said that the wooden or bronze mouthpiece was added so that the trumpeter’s lips would not freeze to the shell in the extreme cold.

When used in Samurai times, the jinkai, or “war shell”, would play different combinations of notes to signal troops to attack, withdraw or change battle plans.  It was sometimes used to confuse the enemy who might misread the number of troops attacking or what the various battle signals might be.  As you might guess, an experienced trumpeter; called a kai yaku (貝役), woudl have to be an adept musician and would be valued greatly by the Japanese fuedal lords or Samurai for their talents.

To learn more about different shell trumpet traditions or to hear a beginner horagai player learning the instrument, check out the links and resources below.

Links and Resources

Instruments From Ancient Mexico – The Conch Shell Trumpet
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/instruments-from-ancient-mexico-the-conch-shell-trumpet/

Wikipedia’s Horagai Page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horagai

Learning to play the Yamabushi Conch-Shell Trumpet (Horagai)
http://multikidsmusicvids.com/?p=1466

What’s the National Instrument of Bhutan? Find It Here!

ukulele color imageThe internet has some really handy compilation sites.  We’ve recently discovered a Wikipedia page that shares the national instruments from a variety of diverse countries of the world.

What’s a national instrument?  It can be an instrument discovered or played in a country, like the South African vuvuzela horn.  It can also be a musical instrument that holds cultural and symbolic importance for a state, a nation, culture or a particular race or ethnicity of people.  Included in this list are distinctive drums, percussion instruments, stringed instruments and more, each one representing the unique character of the country and culture it’s identified with.

Think of the balalaika of Russia  Or the ukulele of Hawaii.   And if you take a moment to check out this list, you’ll notice that each instrument has a clickable link to a more detailed page with additional description, pictures and musical information.  In short, this is an amazing place to begin any study or exploration of world music and world music instruments.

charango full color imageCan a country have more then one “national instrument”?  Yes, you’ll notice that several countries have multiple instruments listed as their national instruments.  For instance, Peru has both the Afro-Peruvian cajón (box drum) and the Andean charango, a stringed instrument made from the shell of an armadillo.

So what is the national instrument of Bhutan?  It’s a long-necked, seven-stringed lute called the drayen.  To find out more, you’ll just have to check out the link, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_instruments_%28music%29

Links and Resources

Vuvuzela – South Africa
MYO Vuvuzela Stadium Horn
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Vuvuzela-Make-Play-Your-Own-South-African-Stadium-Horn-1242716

Balalaika-Ill-ColoredBalalaika – Russia
Balaika Poster and Coloring Page
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Balalaika-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-917136

Wooden Spoons – Russia
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/playing-the-spoonsin-russia/

Cajón  – Peru
Hear, Color or Craft One At:
http://www.dariamusic.com/cajon.php

Ukulele – Hawaii
Poster and Coloring Page
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Ukulele-A-Stringed-Instrument-from-Hawaii-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-1095283

Charango – Peru
Poster and Coloring Page
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Charango-An-Instrument-from-South-America-Mini-Poster-and-Coloring-Page-613417

Sistrum posterSistrum – Egypt
Color or Craft One At:
http://www.dariamusic.com/crafts.php

Didgeridoo – Australia
Hear, Color or Craft One At:
http://www.dariamusic.com/didgeridoo.php

Bell Stones, Soapstones and Fish Pipes – Early Instruments of Indigenous California Cultures

soapstone flutes and whistlesAlthough there’s no formal written history of early indigenous cultures in the region of Southern California, a variety of resources give us a glimpse into the music and ceremonial life of these various tribes. While visiting the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, I was allowed to photograph and share a few of the beautiful music-related artifacts from their vast collection that reflect the early life of Native American tribes in this region.

Ringing Rocks or Bell Stones

Ringing Rock - side viewSimilar to Chumash culture, which originated north of the museum’s Santa Ana location, the pre-1600 AD tribes of this area also discovered, used and revered “ringing rocks” or bell stones. Pictured here (left) is a huge bell stone identified with Tongva/Agaemen(Gabrieliño/Juaneño) cultures with several man-made areas which were probably used for striking particular notes or for grinding medicinal plants. Most often, these large boulders were positioned on top of other rocks to give them more resonance and were “played” by tapping with smaller stones in different areas. Each area that is struck produces a slightly different tone.

soapstone whistlesSoapstone Instruments And A Fish “Pipe”

Also attributed to the early “Channel Island” peoples were an abundance of soapstone whistles and flutes of various shapes and sizes. Found throughout this area, soapstone (also known as steatite or soaprock) is a softer rock related to shist that has been used as a medium for carving in many cultures for thousands of years.

Displayed among the musical instruments is also this large and beautiful soapstone pipe (below) that was excavated from a location in Malibu. Shaped like a fish, fish pipeit could have been used as a sacred pipe or as a musical instrument. It’s design and decoration share many similarities with the more northern Chumash people’s ceremonial items.

Gifted artisans and basket-weavers, it may be hard to know exactly what the music and dance from this time and place were. However, these important and beautiful items can help us piece together many valuable details of these meaningful and important cultures. To learn more about Chumash music or to see how stones and rocks are used as musical instruments, check out the related posts below.

Resources And Related Links

bowers basketsBowers Museum, 2002 Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706 (714) 567-3600

Cocoon Rattles, Bear’s Claws and Bullroarers– Instruments From Chumash Culture

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/cocoon-rattles-bears-claws-and-bullroarers-instruments-from-chumash-culture/

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/playing-river-rocks-as-an-instrument-hawaiian-iliile/

Amazing and Unique Drums of New Guinea

Standing Slit Drums

If you’re near the Los Angeles area, you’ll have a rare chance to see some of the world’s most fascinating Pacific Island drums on display as part of an exhibit on the art and culture of Papua, New Guinea. Currently at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California (USA) is an exhibit entitled: Spirits and Headhunters, Art of the Pacific Islands that shares impressive cultural artifacts including many that reflect the music and dance of this region.

So what’s so different about drums from New Guinea?

The first thing you might notice is the Huge New Guinea slit drumimpressive size of the slit drums featured in this exhibit. In fact, the two large slit drums on display (pictured right and below, left) are each the size and shape of a large canoe! Hollowed out partially inside, both slit drums are struck with beaters, put on a type of cart and moved from place to place while being played. The smaller drum (below) was created and decorated with the motif of Colorful New Guinea Slit druma crocodile, who is considered to be an ancestor spirit in the Sepik region. In this area, the drum is played near a river and it is sometimes considered that drum itself is a spirit and that it’s tones reflect the voice of the ancestors or the divine.

In addition to the “horizontal” slit drums, there are also several large standing wood sculptures that resemble 10 – 15 foot totem poles (pictured above left).  Remarkably, these are also slit drums and are played with beaters as well, often used as methods of communication between tribes or groups of people.

New Guinea (Bowers) drumsOf course, there are also the more traditional looking drums like those seen here as well as an example of a finger-drum which which would have had a lizard skin “head” from the Massim culture of the Milne Bay province of Papua, New Guinea.  All in all, this relatively small exhibit is an amazingly deep journey into the musical, spiritual and artistic life of this important world culture.

For complete information on this exhibit, check out the museum website here: http://www.bowers.org/index.php/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/150-spirits-and-headhunters-art-of-the-pacific-islands

The Ultimate Make Your Own Hawaiian Instruments Book!

Screen shot 2014-11-03 at 12.55.05 PMIf you’ve ever seen authentic traditional music or dance from Hawaii, you’ve probably been struck by its beauty, grace and uniqueness. Although some of the instruments and traditions share roots in Polynesian culture, the islands of Hawaii have developed musical traditions and instruments that are deeply distinctive and singularly beautiful. And so many of the instruments are truly unusual – such as a knee-pad drum covered with the skin of a unicorn fish, gourd nose flutes, coconut bullroarers and even pairs of smooth river rocks used in a manner similar to castanets.

For a wonderful exploration of the percussion pu'ili on blueinstruments used in Hawaiian music, check out the book: How To Make Hawaiian Musical Instruments, by Jim Widess. The book has detailed explanations of each instrument, historical background and many photos of the instruments being used by traditional players. Although the book is set up as a series of tutorials, the information is so good and so beautifully photographed that it serves as an exceptional introduction into the world of Hawaiian music.

What are the instruments detailed in the book? Take a look at the names plus brief descriptions below and hopefully it will make you curious enough to delve deeper into traditional Hawaiian Culture.

Ipu heke ‘ole and Ipu heke – (single and double) gourd percussion

‘Uli’uli – small gourd rattle

Pu’ili Split – bamboo rods split at one end and struck together

‘Ohe ka’eke’eke – stamping tubes made from bamboo

Ili’ile – river rocks used by dancers as percussion

Kala’au – hula sticks

Papa Hehi – footboard or treadle board (stepped upon to play)

Bell Stone – large stone which resonates like a bell when struck

Puniu – coconut knee drum

Ka – beater for coconut drum made from ti leaves

Pahu hula – large standing drum from a coconut palm

‘Ukeke – musical bow

Oeoe – bullroarer made from a coconut

‘Ohe hano ihu – bamboo nose flute

Ipu hokiokio – gourd nose flute

Pu kani – conch shell trumpet

Links And Resources

Make Your Own Hawaiian Instruments Book – New Or Used on On Amazon

How To Make Hawaiian Musical Instruments Widess

Playing River Rocks As An Instrument – Hawaiian `ili`ile (Post in Making Multicultural Music)

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/playing-river-rocks-as-an-instrument-hawaiian-iliile/

cardboard pu'iliPlay Some Pu’ili (Post in Tiny Tapping Toes)

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/make-your-own-puili-hawaiian-rhythm-sticks/

E-books, CD’s and more Musical Fun from DARIA’s TeachersPayTeachers Store
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Daria-Marmaluk-Hajioannou

New E-Book Explores Musical Instruments With Hispanic Roots

HHM-coverHow did you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

Officially Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 – October 15th each year and if you’re wondering about the unusual dates, check out the post below from the official US government site.  But any time of year is good for exploring the wide diversity of cultures that share a Hispanic heritage by starting with the instruments that create their signature sounds and popular music.  From Afro-Cuban bongo drums to Andean panpipes, from guitars that trace their roots back to Spain to new world guiros, making musical crafts is a great, hands-on way of exploring these rich cultural heritages.

We’ve just released this new E-book what explores the background of 10 musical instruments, offers crafts projects and also 5 black and white coloring pages for kids.  Check out the link below from TeachersPayTeachers or get a copy free – until October 31st on DARIA’s world music for kids website.  Make sure you scroll down, as this E-book give-away is the last item on the page, here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Resources And Links

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage – Musical Craft And Coloring E-Book – FromTeachersPayTeachers
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Celebrate-Hispanic-Heritage-Musical-Craft-And-Coloring-E-Book-1427919

Background and History of Hispanic Heritage Month
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/2013-national-hispanic-heritage-month-is-september-15-october-15th/

Make Your Own Mexican-Style Gourd Water Drums

Playing water gourd drumAlthough it’s a truly unique and amazing–sounding instrument, there’s very little information available about the history of gourd water drums. It’s clear that they are used in certain areas in Africa and that they show up in Mayan archives as “bubulek” water drums. In present day Mexico they are called jicara de agua and their history can also be traced to the Yaqui and Yoeme Indigenous people who called these floating gourd water drums, baa wehai.

What, exactly is a gourd water drum? Generally made from 3 sturdy pieces of dried Water gourd drum - parts:gourdsgourds, a small ring holds the larger “gourd bowl”, up-side-down in place. That larger gourd is filled with water. The smaller gourd is placed right-side-up, gently on the water’s surface where it is hit with a stick or tapped with fingers, palms or knuckles to create the unique, deep and resonant sound associated with this instrument.

While checking out LA born drummer and percussionist, Christopher Garcia, we found some really great information on the Yaqui and Yoeme roots of floating gourd water drums. Although several musicologists identify this drum as part of the Yaqui Deer Dance (Mazotiwua), Garcia explains how a special beater is used called a baa jiponia, made from a stick wrapped in a corn husk. He also shares some great pictures and basic information on a related instrument, called hirukiam which consist of a gourd facing down and a rasp laid across it, then scraped. The result is a “natural speaker” and another really unique sound creation. Links to Christopher Garcia’s music and website can be found below.

Sounds Like?

Watch this video from Germany and you’ll be able to both see and hear several techniques for playing the gourd water drum:

 

Michael Heralda of Aztec Stories Shows You How To Make A Gourd Water Drum

Also a wealth of information on ancient Mexican culture and musical traditions, Michael Heralda has two informative step-by-step videos that show you how to create your own gourd water drums. You’ll notice that his drums not only sound good, but are beautifully decorated.  For more information on his music, instruments, stories and other resources, visit the link below.

Here are his two gourd water drum-making videos from Youtube:

Michael Heralda’s Making A Gourd Water Drum – Part One

Michael Heralda’s Making A Gourd Water Drum – Part Two

 

Links and Resources

plastic water drum playingA Make-Your-Own Gourd Water Drum Craft for Kids

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/musical-water-play-a-myo-gourd-style-water-drum/

Christopher Garcia’s BAA WEHAI webpage

http://christophergarciamusic.weebly.com/baa-wehai.html

Christopher Garcia’s Indigenous Instruments webpage

http://christophergarciamusic.weebly.com/indigenous-instruments-images.html

Michael Heralda’s Aztec Stories Website

http://www.aztecstories.com/index.html

 

 

 

Instruments From Ancient Mexico – The Conch Shell Trumpet

conch shell trumpetA conch shell is a beautiful thing.

But who would guess that cultures all around the world would not only admire it’s beauty but also figure out that – with a few minor modifications – it becomes a completely functional, natural trumpet!  Among others, there are conch trumpets heard in music from the South Pacific, Tibet, Korea and pre-Incan cultures.  Archeological finds and older documents also place it in Aztec culture and ceremonies as well.  Here’s a bit more about the Aztec conch shell trumpet.

aztec conch trumpetPictured here is a musician called a “quiquizoani” playing the conch shell.  The name is in the Nahuatl Indigenous language of Mexico and this specific image can be found on page 23 of the Aztec Codex “Magliabecchi”, currently preserved and archived at the University of Utah in the United States.

One of the best sites for information on Aztec instruments, including great pictures from archeological sites and historical references is Mexicolore.com (see resources below).  Their research shows that there were 7 different types of conch shells and that the largest was called the ‘quiquiztli’.  As you might imagine, the shell trumpet was highly symbolic and associated with the breath of life as well as the rhythms of the sea.  Similarly, it was associated with the call to prayer, marking time during the day and during the night, the moon, fertility and Ehécatl – the Aztec God of the Wind.

Research also shows that conch shell trumpets were used by the Aztec military in a manner similar to modern day bugles.

Conch Shells in The USA

Closer to home, conch shells are part of a unique contest in the Florida Keys.  Although the tradition of blowing the conch trumpet dates back over 200 years, it was originally used mainly for maritime signaling. Recently, however, the contest is a lot more colorful with contestants that vary in age from 3 – 83 and even perform with unique outfits, hula hoops and other novelty approaches.

Want to find out more about this modern conch contest?  Check out the link below for some amazing variations on this ancient musical theme

What Does A Conch Trumpet Sound Like?

Check out this short video where a young buy demonstrates how to cut the conch shell and how to practice getting the trumpet sound.

http://multikidsmusicvids.com/?p=1002

Resources

MexicoLore’s Conch Shell Page
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/music/conch-trumpet

Florida Keys Newsroom – Info On The Annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest
http://media.fla-keys.com/section_display.cfm?section_id=295