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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Instruments Used for Non-musical Purposes

Pukaea: A long wooden war trumpet very like the solemn-sounding ceremonial trumpets of Tibet. It has a length of from 4 to 6 ft, a diameter of 1¼ in. at the blowing end and widens out to about 8 in. at the bell end. It is made in the same way as the putorino, hollowed out in sections and joined together again. The flare at the lower end is made by joining together a number of triangular wedges of wood which are gummed and bound to the end of the pipe. A few inches above the bell end, a tonsil or vibrating reed has been inserted in the pipe, perhaps in imitation of the human throat, but the purpose of this device remains in doubt. Compared with the simplicity of the koauau, nguru, and putorino, the pukaea, with its vibrating tonsil and bell-shaped end seems to be out of character. It gives forth a loud booming sound like the siren of a large ocean liner, and was used to sound an alarm in time of danger or to terrify an enemy by shouting curses through it.

Putara or Pumoana: A shell trumpet found in many places in the world and known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as a Triton's trumpet. The Maori version was made by cutting off the spiral end of a conch shell and fitting on a wooden mouthpiece. When blown by a lusty lunged Maori, it produced a loud, clear note suitable for signalling. It was also used for ceremonial purposes such as to announce the birth of a male child of rank, or to gather people together for a special occasion.

Pahu: The only percussion instrument invented by the Maori. It was made from a slab of totara about 30 ft long, suspended from a ridge pole erected on an elevated part of the pa and beaten with a heavy club, like a gong. The sounds could be heard miles away and reverberated round the hills like a loud peal of thunder.

by M.M.

  • A Pacific Bibliography, Taylor, C. R. H. (1951)
  • Studies in Maori Rites and Myths, Johansen, J. P. (1958).