Volume 103 1994 > Volume 103, No. 1 > Correspondence, p 88
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- 88

Cook Islands Drums by Jon Jonassen is the first book by a Cook Islander on the subject of Cook Islands drums, and an important and useful addition to a small list of publications on the subject. I would like here to comment specifically on Jonassen's discussion of the koriro double slit drum, as contained in this book.

On p.19, Jonassen states that “The koriro is usually found in the Northern Cook Islands”. This term, is, however, the name on Manihiki for the slit drum known elsewhere in the Cooks as pate. I have interviewed men from Tongareva (Penrhyn) and Pukapuka who informed me that the local term for this drum was pate and not koriro. (The word kolilo in Pukapukan actually means a kite [Beaglehole 1938:214].) It appears, then, that the word koriro is found only in Manihiki and not throughout the Northern Group in general.

Following his visit to Manihiki in 1929, Peter Buck commented that “the double gong was not mentioned to me by my informants. It is unusual and may have been a freak experiment” (Buck 1932:204). And indeed, Buck's illustration of a koriro is that of a Manihiki instrument (p.238).

I should like to outline the drum's method of manufacture, which differs from the description given by Jonassen (p.20). Assuming the koriro to be the equivalent of the pate (and this is how we Manihiki people regard it), then the former is made in the same way as the latter. If, however, the koriro is considered as a double slit drum, the slits will be on opposite sides. Buck (1932:203) describes a Manihiki koriro double drum in the Bishop Museum as being “formed of one piece of wood twice the depth of an ordinary small gong, so that slots, openings and cavities can be formed on opposite surfaces”. Melinda Allen, Assistant Anthropologist at the Bishop Museum, has confirmed Buck's description: “…the drum is truly made from a single piece of wood as Buck suggests. The slots are directly opposite one another” (personal communication 1993).

By contrast, Jonassen suggests that the two slits were made side by side on a single flat piece of wood, or alternatively, that two separate pieces of wood could be glued or tied together to make the koriro. Both of these methods differ from that familiar to Manihiki people. Indeed, interviews with two elderly Manihiki men, Tutai Pukerua and Mehau Karaponga, confirmed that, contra Jonassen, the traditional means of manufacture is identical to that for the pate, that is, a single piece of tamanu or fano wood is hollowed out. Neither of these men was aware of a koriro having two slits, which offers support for the suggestion that the double koriro was an isolated experiment.

Kauraka Kauraka Rarotonga
  • Beaglehole, Ernest and Pearl, 1938. Ethnology of Pukapuka. Bulletin 150. Honolulu: Bishop Museum.
  • Buck, Peter H., 1932. Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga. Bulletin 99. Honolulu: Bishop Museum.
  • Jonassen, Jon, 1991. Cook Islands Drums. Rarotonga: Ministry of Cultural Development.