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Annotated Checklist of Musical Instruments From
Countries and Regions Represented
Instrument Types Represented
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NMM 3868. Didjeridu (yidaki), Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia, mid-20th century. End-blown natural trumpet, traditionally constructed from a eucalyptus branch hollowed out by termites. Painted with diamond and dot patterns. The mouth-blown end is coated with dried beeswax. Sound is produced when a player blows through the tube with buzzed lips, resulting in a fundamental pitch, or drone, and the first overtone. The didjeridu is a sacred Aboriginal instrument. Its traditional function is to accompany the songs inherently belonging to individuals at birth that express a spiritual connection to their land and ancestors. Today, didjeridus are also played solo or used as rhythmic accompaniment in rock and pop bands. Gift of D. G. Clegg Forgie, Orange, New South Wales, Australia, 1985.
NMM 1808. Gourd drum (ipu heke ‘ole), Hawaii, mid-20th century. Single, hollow, calabash gourd drum with cord for carrying. Single-gourd ipus are often played for self-accompaniment by seated dancers or by accompanying musicians (ho’opa’a). The basic rhythm consists of the upbeat, te, played with the fingers on the side of the ipu, and the downbeat, u, played by striking the palm against the bottom of the ipu or by striking the ipu against the ground. Double-gourd ipus, called ipu heke, are played in the same way. Gift of Linda Hansen Solheim, Estherville, Iowa, 1977.
NMM 1803. Castanets (‘ili‘ili), Hawaii, mid-20th century. Two pairs of round, flat stones (basaltic lava). Played by hula dancers with two stones in each hand. ‘Ili‘ili are very personal instruments, as their size is chosen to fit the player’s hands. Prior to the introduction of the guitar and ukulele into Hawaiian music (early 1880s), most instruments used to accompany traditional hulas were percussive. Thus, the main function of the ‘ili‘ili, like other traditional Hawaiian instruments, is to help the dancer maintain the beat. Gift of Linda Hansen Solheim, Estherville, Iowa, 1977.
NMM 1806. Gourd rattle (‘uli‘uli), Hawaii, mid-20th century. Calabash gourd, filled with seeds, decorated with red-and-yellow feathers. Played by hula dancers, either by shaking or tapping against the body. In traditional hulas, only one ‘uli‘uli is played; however, in modern hulas, a dancer will play two. The traditional hulas, called hula kahiko, have been performed for centuries in Hawaii to honor the gods, to entertain the royal court, and to preserve orally transmitted narratives and genealogies. Modern hulas, called hula auana, are performed for a larger, global audience and have broadened to incorporate narratives about love and Hawaiian identity. Gift of Linda Hansen Solheim, Estherville, Iowa, 1977.
NMM 1807. Hula sticks (kala’au), Hawaii, mid-20th century. Two wooden sticks struck together by dancers as a rhythmic accompaniment to hulas (narrative dances intended to tell a story). In Hawaii, as in most Polynesian cultures, great importance is placed on the power of words. Meles, the poetic texts of chants and songs, are perceived as connections to the supernatural world. As these chants and songs are sung, they are simultaneously enacted visually through hula dances. Gift of Linda Hansen Solheim, Estherville, Iowa, 1977.
NMM 1805. Rattle (pu‘ili), Hawaii, mid-20th century. Hollow bamboo tubes with long, narrow slits along three-quarters of the length of the tube. The uncut end, closed by a node, serves as a handle. In older hula kahiko dances, one pu’ili is shaken or tapped against the performer's arm, shoulder, the ground, or against a pu’ili held by another, adjacent dancer. In the modern hula auana, dancers strike their two pu'ili against each other. The resulting sound is soft and rustling. Gift of Webster Sill, Vermillion, South Dakota, 1976.
NMM 2332. Drum, Batak People, Sumatra, Indonesia, mid-19th century. Conical, wooden drum with original, lizard-skin head attached with rattan laces. Head covered with small dark drops of dried beeswax or resin, applied while tuning the drum. Splayed end carved and painted to resemble a brass cannon. The tradition of casting brass and bronze cannons in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia began with the Dutch and Portuguese colonists. These cannons usually served ceremonial functions and were eventually used as a form of currency for trading purposes. Cannons were also considered status symbols for many smaller Indonesian villages. Board of Trustees, 1977.
NMM 2591. Lute (jungga), Sumba, Eastern Lesser Sundas, Indonesia, late 19th century. Plucked lute with two strings and five raised frets. Prow-shaped carvings on neck and body may be the result of Portuguese influence in this region of Indonesia. The Sumbanese have a vibrant culture, marked by animist practices, music, dance and story-telling. The jungga is often played to accompany secular love or recreational songs. This lute, as well as NMM 2368 (below), belong to a family of chordophones found throughout Indonesia that were most likely adopted from India during periods of strong Hindu influence. Board of Trustees, 1979.
NMM 2368. Lute (kachapi), Batak People, Sumatra, Indonesia, late 19th/early 20th century. Plucked lute with two strings and no frets that originates with the indigenous Batak people. It is played to accompany story-tellers or in an ensemble called gendang keteng-keteng. This ensemble, usually comprised of kachapi and tube zithers, is one example of the many different musical groups that accompany the ceremonies central to Batak life. The Gendang keteng plays trance-inducing music through which persons may become possessed by, and thus communicate with, their ancestors. Board of Trustees, 1978.
NMM 2684. Saron attributed to Java, mid-19th century. Metallophone with nine bronze bars, placed horizontally across a wooden frame, held in place with small metal nails. Frame painted blue and red, with carvings highlighted in yellow. An ensemble instrument that originally played in small musical groups for the royal courts. Today, sarons of varying sizes and ranges play in gamelans throughout Java. Board of Trustees, 1980.
NMM 1430. Angklung, Java, 20th century. Three bamboo-tube rattles set in a wooden frame. Sound produced when frame is shaken and tubes slide back and forth. Tongue segments cut from the tops of the tubes determine the pitch. This particular angklung is tuned approximately to the pitch of b/b-flat in three different octaves. Although the angklung is widely distributed across Southeast Asia, it is most prominent in Java. Traditionally played in ensembles with additional angklungs tuned to different pitches; when played together, melodies in five or seven-note tunings are possible. Angklung ensembles may be accompanied by drums and gongs. Board of Trustees, 1976.
NMM 7093. Conch shell trumpet (săng), Southeast Asia (possibly Malaysia), 20th century. Pewter extensions with geometric wave motif and sea dragon (makara). Sharply tapered posterior extension. Buddhism's spread has yielded countless variations of design and style, seen here as manifest in Southeast Asia, perhaps Malaysia or Thailand. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 2329. Drum attributed to Iban tribe of the Dayaks, Sarawak, Malaysia, late 19th-early 20th century. Bowl-shaped wooden body, open at the bottom, with cow or goat-skin head attached with rattan laces. Traces of white fur on the head, which is tuned by tightening the laces. The generic term for single-headed Malaysian drums is rebana. Although their specific musical functions vary according to region, they are generally played to accompany ceremonial or theatrical songs and dances. Board of Trustees, 1977.
NMM 2402. Panpipes by Dayak tribe, Sabah (formerly North Borneo), Malaysia, mid-19th century. Ten hollow pipes of graduated lengths, cast from bronze, with a dark patina. Designs between pipes resemble a braided chain. Sound produced by blowing across the tops of the pipes and stopping, or partially stopping, the lower end with the fingers. Played solo or in ensembles. This instrument originates from a Dayak tribe, one of 450 linguistically-related indigenous groups on the island of Borneo. Beede Fund, 1978.
NMM 2374. Bullroarer, Papua New Guinea, 20th century. Elongated wooden disk with red-and-white symmetrical painting. Long string tied to painted end through small hole at top. The player whirls the instrument in a circle around his head, like a lasso, creating a thunderous, roaring sound. The smaller the size and the faster the whirl, the higher the pitch. Bullroarers, found throughout New Guinea, are believed to re-create voices of the spirits. They are sacred instruments, traditionally played by men during initiation ceremonies. Board of Trustees, 1978.
NMM 2331. Drum, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea, mid/late 19th century. Conical wooden hand drum with replacement head of snake skin, attached with braided rattan hoop. Lower half painted with symmetrical, red-and-white design. Open end tapers into two prongs, painted to resemble an animal face with open jaws. The open-mouth carving, also seen on the paired flutes (NMM 7436 and 7437), and a jew’s harp (NMM 1439), represents the concept of an instrument "speaking." In cultures throughout Oceania, the use of music as communication—often to the spirit world—is prevalent. Board of Trustees, 1977.
NMM 1479. Drum, Trobriand Islands (also known as Kiriwina Islands), Papua New Guinea, late 19th century. Cylindrical wooden drum with original lizard-skin head attached with rattan. Handle extends entire length of drum, decorated with white lime inlay, a common characteristic of Trobriand art. Politically part of Papua New Guinea, the Trobriand Islands are a collection of coral atolls located off Papua New Guinea's eastern coast. Drums such as this one accompany songs and dances, keeping basic rhythmic patterns and signaling dancers. Board of Trustees, 1976.
NMM 2330. Drum (kundu), Wossera region, Sepi, Papua New Guinea, late 19th century. Wooden hourglass drum with snake-skin head attached from the underside with adhesive. Handle at waist. Four carved faces. Curvilinear and diamond-shaped decorative patterns. Kundu drums accompany dances and can be played either by the dancers themselves or other musicians. The drum is held by the handle and struck with the other hand. Board of Trustees, 1977.
NMM 1493. Drum (kundu) by brother of Philip Kondayagl Ongugo, Kogun Mambuno, Chimbu Province, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Wooden hourglass drum with original lizard-skin head (including claws) attached with rubber hoop. No handle or carvings. The process of creating drums, by hollowing a log through carving and burning, is fairly universal throughout New Guinea. Heads are attached with a sticky substance, often a mixture of tree sap and pig’s blood, and secured with a hoop. Tuning is accomplished by heating the head, placing lumps of beeswax or sap on the head, or tightening the hoop. Ex coll.: Fred Crane, Iowa City. Board of Trustees, 1976.
NMM 2353. Drum (kundu), Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. A typical, wooden, hourglass-shaped drum with handle, dark finish, and snake or lizard-skin head attached with a braided rattan hoop. A pair of eyes is carved above the handle. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.
NMM 2324-2325. Pair of bamboo flutes (mambu), Palembei Village, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, late 19th century. Transverse flutes constructed from bamboo with carved wooden stoppers in the form of rhino-bird heads. Wrapped with rattan above the embouchure hole and at the bottom. Players place their index fingers on the sides of their mouths, partially cover the large embouchure hole, and overblow to create multiple pitches. These sacred flutes originate among the Iatmul people and represent the male and female voices of their crocodile ancestors. Played in pairs during male initiation ceremonies, when boys undergo a rite of passage in which their skin is cut in order to produce scars resembling crocodile skin. Board of Trustees, 1977.
NMM 7436-7437. Pair of bamboo flutes, Papua New Guinea, ca. 1940s. The larger flute is the "male;" the smaller, the "female." Embouchure hole near the closed, pronged end. Geometric patterns burned into bamboo. A fundamental pitch is produced by blowing across the embouchure hole. Additional pitches can be played by overblowing or by covering the open end with a finger or palm. Throughout Papua New Guinea, paired flutes are an integral part of boys’ initiation ceremonies. Because of their highly sacred function, which is to represent the voices of spirits or ancestors, women are traditionally not allowed to see, hear, or play them. Gift of Robert F. Cole, Montello, Wisconsin, 1998.
NMM 1483. Rattle, Sepik River Region, Papua New Guinea, late 19th/early 20th century. Nut husks from the kepayang tree, strung together with a fibrous material. After the nuts were removed, the husks were hollowed out and boiled to neutralize a poisonous acid present in the nut meats. Rattles such as this one are often tied around a dancer’s wrists or ankles to accentuate the rhythm of the accompanying music and are part of elaborate and colorful dancers’ costumes. Through their movements and costuming, dancers seemingly transform themselves into animal spirits or mythical beings. This reflects the belief, common throughout Melanesia, that music and dance are tangible connections between humans and the spirit world. Board of Trustees, 1976.
NMM 1438. Jew’s harp (tombagl in local language), Kindeng, Western Highland Province, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Ex coll.: Fred Crane, Iowa City, Iowa. Board of Trustees, 1973.
NMM 1439. Jew’s harp (hónto or hondo in Kafe language), Yaguna, Eastern Highland Province, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Ex coll.: Fred Crane. Board of Trustees, 1973.
NMM 1440. Jew’s harp (ontoi in Auyana language) by Abamala A’nole, Sepuna, Eastern Highland Province, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Ex coll.: Fred Crane. Board of Trustees, 1973.
NMM 1441. Jew’s Harp (wege in Dumaka language), Onuma, Chimbu Province, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Ex coll.: Fred Crane. Board of Trustees, 1973.
NMM 1442. Jew’s Harp (hónto or hondo in Kafe language) by No’empa, Karafu, Eastern Highland Province, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Ex coll.: Fred Crane. Board of Trustees, 1973.
NMM 1321. Slit drum (garamut), Sepik region, Papua New Guinea, early 20th century. Constructed from a log hollowed by carving and burning, with a narrow slit cut along the top. Played with one or two sticks hitting drum either near the slit or on the sides. Symmetrical, curvilinear figures carved along the sides. Human figures (male and female) carved on the handles. Slit drums are prominent in New Guinea along the Northern coast, the Sepik region, and the smaller islands. They accompany men’s initiation dances; thus, they are sacred, stored in special houses, and often recognized with a personal name. Slit drums are also used for signaling purposes and to convey messages throughout a village through the use of codified rhythmic patterns. Board of Trustees, 1975.
NMM 2323. Trumpet mask (vurbracha), Baining people, Gazelle Peninsula, New Britain, Papua New Guinea, mid-20th century. Constructed from a wicker frame, bamboo tube, and rattan laces, the mask is covered over its entirety with a paper-thin bark. Although this artifact is not actually a musical instrument, dancers can vocalize through the long bamboo tube. Part of an elaborate dance costume, the vurbracha is worn during the night-time dances (or fire dances) that celebrate the male activity of hunting. The face depicts the spirit of an owl or other animal of the bush. Made of perishable materials, these masks are usually discarded after being used only once in the dance, reflecting a cycle of life and death. Board of Trustees, 1977.
NMM 1480. Natural trumpet (towel), Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 19th century. Side-blown natural trumpet made of taun wood with a human head carved at the top. Embouchure hole surrounded by vertical rows of carved, curvilinear designs. Most trumpets throughout New Guinea function as signaling instruments and only produce one note. They were traditionally sounded to announce an approaching raiding or head-hunting party. In some areas, they may also be played in ensembles. Board of Trustees, 1976.
NMM 1528. Natural trumpet (towel), Mummeri Village, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, 19th century. Side-blown natural trumpet made from the taun, a tree indigenous to New Guinea. Carved figure with cowry-shell eyes and a small bird (which may represent a totemic ancestor), above embouchure hole. Decorated with etched circles and curvilinear designs. This trumpet, along the other wooden New Guinea trumpets at the NMM, originates from the Sepik River region, one of the largest river systems in the world. It is inhabited by over 200 indigenous groups, well-known for their carvings and art. Beede Fund, 1977.
NMM 7175. Natural trumpet (towel), Sepik River Region, Papua New Guinea, early 20th century. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet with a dark finish. Human face and bird carved above the embouchure hole. Body carved with circles and curvilinear designs. Unlike many of the other NMM trumpets from New Guinea, this example was carved with a stone or a bone instead of a knife. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7279. Natural trumpet (towel), Blackwater River, Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet. Abstract animal or human figure carved above embouchure hole, with semi-circular and curvilinear designs beneath. Bottom half of body not carved. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7280. Natural trumpet (towel), Kapriman Village, Blackwater River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet with crocodile head carved above the embouchure hole. Body decorated with carved circular, curvilinear, and zig-zag patterns. The crocodile is considered to be a sacred creature and often appears in the mythology and art of the Sepik region. One group tells a creation narrative, for example, in which the upper jaw of the crocodile became the heavens and the lower jaw became the earth. For other groups, the crocodile is a totemic ancestor or believed to be the sacred being that created mankind. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7281. Natural trumpet (towel), Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet. Human head surrounded by an arch (possibly a symbolic, protective circle) carved above the embouchure hole. Some indigenous groups in the Sepik region, such as the Yamok, believe that the figure of a woman carved inside a circle will bring protection against evil. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7282. Natural trumpet (towel), Blackwater River, Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet. Male head with dark cowry-shell eyes and protruding ears. Body of instrument carved with zig-zag, oval, and curvilinear patterns. The holes in the earlobes may be connected to the tradition of body decoration (bilas) throughout New Guinea. Piercings, tattoos, scarification, body painting, and costumes are practices that continue to flourish in most indigenous communities, providing a sense of tradition and identity. Joe F. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7283. Natural trumpet (towel), Sepik Region, New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet. Elongated oval carving above embouchure hole, with zig-zag, semi-circular, and curvilinear patterns carved along the length of the body. Carvings on New Guinea trumpets differ according to their place of origin and reveal the unique perspectives of various indigenous groups. Often, the meanings of the designs are a mystery to non-tribal members. According to the San Antonio Museum of Art, ". . . abstract designs are often embedded with metaphysical content and may denote specific animals or complex narratives related to tribal mythology." Additionally, the meaning of the artwork is often esoteric knowledge limited only to initiated men. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7284. Natural trumpet (towel), Blackwater River, Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet with dark finish. Carved face (possibly a monkey or lion with a mane) above embouchure hole. Crescent-shaped carvings in columns along length of body. Orange, yellow, and white paint remnants near top and bottom of trumpet. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7285. Natural trumpet (towel), Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet with a light finish. The carvings include a man balancing a head on his hands and feet. Below is another animal face, with two more figures, possibly crocodiles, along the sides of the trumpet. The figures have cowry-shell eyes. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7286. Natural trumpet (towel), Blackwater River, Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet with a dark finish. Carved with zig-zag and curvilinear patterns along most of body. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 7287. Natural trumpet (towel), Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea, 1970. Side-blown, wooden, natural trumpet. Human head with cowry-shell eyes carved above embouchure hole. Body decorated with carved, curvilinear designs, ovals, and arrows. The head may symbolically represent the tradition of head-hunting, which was once practiced in the Sepik region. The tradition, which involved the ritual removal and decoration of an enemy’s head, was part of a complex system of ideologies and often associated with the male initiation process. When head-hunting was outlawed—in some places as recently as the 1950s—many indigenous groups began carving representations of the ritual instead. Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.
NMM 6106. Drum, Sulu people, southern Philippines, 20th century. Teak, ornately carved with Islamic designs. Eight feet tall. Previous owner bought drum on Tawi Tawi Island. Purchase funds gift of Margaret Ann and Hubert H. Everist, Sioux City, Iowa, 1998.
NMM 1535. Drum, Samoa, 19th century. Wooden hourglass-shaped drum with handle. Original snake-skin head attached with hoop wrapped in cloth. Carved trianglar patterns at the foot. Concentric square pattern at the waist. This style of drum, nearly identical to NMM 1536 (below), was probably introduced to Samoa from New Guinea. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.
NMM 1536. Drum, Samoa, 19th century. Wooden hourglass-shaped drum with handle and snakeskin head, attached with hoop wrapped in cloth. Carved triangular patterns at the foot and waist. Membranophones in Samoa are rare. Dances are usually accompanied by slit drums, rolled mats called falas, and body percussion. This drum, nearly identical to NMM 1535 (above)`, may have been introduced to Samoa from New Guinea. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.
NMM 2759. Slit drum (nanaru a ting ting), Ambrym Island, Vanuatu (New Hebrides), early 20th century. Vertical slit drum constructed from a breadfruit log. Above the slit are two faces with disk eyes, a design common to the region and said to represent ancestral figures. Slit drums play an integral role in the economic system and social stratification of Ambrym society. When a man accumulates enough wealth, usually in the form of pigs, he pays for a drum to be made, as well as for a na huqe—a ceremony marking the man’s advancement to a higher societal status. The newly made drum is played to accompany the songs and dances of the ritual. Board of Trustees, 1981.