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Music and Art



Musical Messages
Melanasia, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River Region, <I>Garamut</I> (Slit Drum), 20th century, wood
zoom Melanasia, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River Region, Garamut (Slit Drum), 20th century, wood

 

The garamut (slit drum) is one of the most important musical instruments in the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. It is made from a hollowed-out log and played by striking it with a stick. Men in the community play the garamut at sacred ceremonies, communal celebrations, and dances.

The drum also is used daily for long-distance communication, in a manner similar to Morse code. Drummers have developed a special language of rhythms and notes by which they send messages to other communities. A drum can be used to call people together for meetings, to issue warnings, and to communicate other important information.

This garamut has intricate designs on its handles and body. A carved figure with both animal and human characteristics forms the handles at each end. It also indicates what clan the drum’s owner belongs to. The long, beaklike nose and elaborate hairdo are in a style seen on many objects made in the Lower Sepik River region. The incised and inlaid patterns on the body of the drum are similar to decorations found on shields and hourglass-shaped hand drums from this region.


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1. The garamut (slit drum) is from the Lower Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea.
2. This hand drum, smaller than the garamut, is from the Middle Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea.
Melanasia, Papua New Guinea (Iatmul), Kundu Drum, 20th century, wood

 

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March 2007