There are two types of bamboo flutes known in Dutch New Guinea. The modern thin bamboo flute, not native to Papuan traditional music, has been used for probably more than a century. The traditional one is virtually nonexistent and is known only through scientific studies and missionary reports.
The Modern Flute Orchestra
The nine-hole thin bamboo flute used in a modern flute orchestra – particularly, along the northern, northeastern, and northwestern coasts in Netherlands New Guinea – is not a typical Papuan flute. It was probably introduced by Ambonese Christians to the Christian Papuans in those areas at the turn of the 20th century and has been used ever since.
One end of this flute is usually plugged up with a cut piece of gabah-gabah, the inside part of a dried stalk of a sago tree. A mouthpiece is drilled with a pointed iron bar heated with firewood close below the plugged up end. A few inches downwards, eight finger holes evenly spaced are also drilled with the same heated iron bar. Usually, no tuning fork or pitch instrument is used to measure any diatonic major key for the flute. Anybody skillful enough can produce a flute by using a previously made flute perfectly tuned as a standard pitch measurement. The other end of the flute is left open.
This modern flute can produce an octave of a diatonic scale. No chromatic tones can be played and heard from it.
One modern flute orchestra can consist of one small, thin bamboo solo flute with a high and piercing sound, similar to that of a Western piccolo. This flute leads the orchestra by playing the main melody. A large majority of the other flutes are of a medium size and are grouped into those playing the soprano, alto, and tenor parts. Another group consisting of large size thin bamboo flutes form the bass. Self-made drums that resemble the Western snare and bass drums used for marching complete with a pair of sticks (for the snare drum) and a mallet stick (for the bass drum) form the percussion section. The mallet stick is made from a piece of strong and round wooden stick ; one of its end used for beating the drum is wrapped with a special piece of clothes that can produce a deep, dark, rumbling bass sound, resembling that of a disco bass drum. Certain flute orchestra groups also use complete sets of commercial snare and bass drums used for military march music. In a 2/4 or 4/4 song, the bass-drum beats usually follow the meter, with some incidental variations. The snare drum is played in various rhythms, some of them improvised. A complete flute orchestra consists of at least seven players.
The songs played by a flute orchestra are of any types. They include church songs, modern folk songs, Western (including Dutch) march songs, and even self-composed songs.
Strange as it may sound, the church songs played are often of Anglo-Saxon origin. They include those mellow, sentimental, “bound-for-heaven” songs, and other lively, sunshine-bright songs.
This inclination was probably influenced by two hymn books that contain a lot of Anglo-Saxon church songs: Doea Sahabat Lama and Mazmoer dan Tahlil. Both were very popular before and after the Second World War among the Christians in the eastern part of Indonesia (West Timor, North Sulawesi, and the Moluccas) and in Netherlands New Guinea.
The harmony of the orchestra is usually formed from the Western diatonic music. It includes the tonic, subdominant, dominant (including dominant seven) and is sometimes varied with the supertonic, mediant, and submediant. The harmony usually follows parallel and similar lines: when the lead flute goes up, flat, or down in the main melody, the accompanying soprano, alto, and tenor flutes do the same or form similar lines. The bass flute usually plays the root notes of the chords or harmony. This type of harmony is also typical of both hymn books, also sung in four parts by both children’s and adult choirs in church services or Christian festivities.
Harmony moving in such parallel and similar lines is not only easy to play. It is also easy to construct. Once a flute player understands and masters the ABC of such harmony, he can easily or spontaneously form the melodic line of his part that harmonically supports or embellishes the main melody.
Then, came Rev. I. S. Kijne (1899-1970), one of the most prominent missionaries of the Dutch Reformed Church Missionary in Dutch New Guinea. As a highly gifted musician, he taught his Papuan students modern church and selected secular songs from Continental Europe, Britain, and the USA by using a different system of harmony at the Christian Teacher’s Training College for rural areas in Miei, an important village in the Wondama Peninsula, north Netherlands New Guinea, from 1925 to 1942. The harmonic parts of the songs are combinations of parallel, similar to parallel, oblique, in-unison, and contrary motion. He taught his Papuan students, later teachers at Christian three-year elementary schools in the rural areas managed by the Missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church in Dutch New Guinea, to teach Papuan pupils and their congregations to sing the “Kijne method”: choirs should sing their songs by heart, the singing mouths should look oval to produce sonority, the right singing voice should be put in the right singing part, and the new harmony that also includes chromatic tones should be used.
The college is also the first teacher’s training institute in the whole of Dutch New Guinea.
Before the Second World War, he published his translations into Malay (now Indonesian) of those songs he had taught at that college and some others in a hymn book entitled Mazmur dan Nyanyian Rohani (Psalms and Spiritual Songs). The spiritual songs include Beethoven’s Song of Joy, G.F. Handel’s melody for Daughter Zion, another melody for his Joy to the World theme, and J.S. Bach’s O Sacred Head Now Wounded. A four-part edition for mixed choirs uses the modern harmony just mentioned. This hymn book containing only the main melody in the sol-fa notation plus lyrics is still being used by some main-stream Protestant churches in Indonesia, including the Evangelical Christian Church in the present-day Papua and West Papua provinces.
What not many of those who use Kijne’s hymn book know nowadays is that he also published a special edition for a four-part flute orchestra in Dutch New Guinea. Because the flute players were familiar with the tonic sol-fa notation (the number or cipher notation), the edition used this notation system. It was not published again, however, when Netherlands New Guinea became a part of Indonesia in 1963.
Though the flute orchestra has been quite popular among the coastal main-stream Papuan Protestants in Dutch New Guinea since the turn of last century, the flute itself is not native to them. It is a foreign cultural element that nevertheless has enriched their musical heritage.
How does the traditional flute in Dutch New Guinea look like? Why is it virtually nonexistent?
There are many types of traditional flutes in Dutch New Guinea. They are made from the thin and thick bamboos. We know them from scientific documents left by Dutch and other scholars.
Two of them, however, were commonly used in the northern coast. First, the small flute for giving signals used in Witriwai and Humboldt Bay. Second, the flute played by the Saberi tribe east of Apauwar River. One of its end is open and a part of the other end is covered by a cut hole at its joint. Both flutes are typical of both areas.
Can traditional flutes create harmonics? In other words, can they produce overtones in addition to the lowest or fundamental tone?
Dr. Kunst said the flutes did create fundamental tones but with uneven and even overtones. Their shapes, sizes, and how they were made and blown affect their characteristics of overtones. The two types of bamboo flutes already mentioned were described by G.A.J. van der Sande, a Dutch scholar.
One of them comes in various sizes. It is thin in relation to its length and is blown at its upper end; its lower end is closed by its joint or node. Because of its typical size, shape, and way of playing, it produces uneven overtones in addition to its fundamental tone.
The other type comes also in various forms and sizes. Compared with the first type, the second type is wider and shorter. It also has a round, oval, or square hole in the middle. Generally, the hole is closer to its closed end than to its open end. The size and shape of such a flute can produce even harmonics, but the larger diameter of the bamboo seems to obstruct more than one single tone.
The last mentioned flute is short and thick. The aerophonic instrument is played more easily than the thin, long flute.
The Sacred Flutes
The thin, long flutes are called “sacred flutes” because they were blown only during sacred rituals. Women were forbidden to see or watch or listen to them when they were blown.
Playing them was so difficult that not a single European, even Dr. Kunst himself, could blow one! His attempts even ended in embarrassing failures.
Only the sturdy, barrel chested, and mature Papuan men could blow them. Because the way a sacred flute was blown needed a lot of energy, the men able to play sacred flutes could only hold on for a short period of time, became quickly exhausted, and perspired. Van der Sande who witnessed the playing of the sacred flutes commented: “I have seldom seen a Papuan exerting himself more than in producing this sacred music.”
The musical tones of the thin, long bamboo flute were carefully and accurately measured. Which harmonics was sounded? Attempts to determine the series of partials (overtones) failed, partly because the flute pitches were not based on Western harmonics and presumably the manner of blowing the flute also caused the failure.
Van der Sande determined the fundamental tone of the sacred flute with a cut hole at its joint at C sharp (#C). However, he determined its harmonics at A, C, and E; the overtones considered were uneven, caused partly by the stopped or closed end of the flute.
In spite of the problems of determining the harmonics, a part of the melody played on the flutes and recorded produces four tones that can be appreciated by Western musical ears. The tones “have a sweet organ-like sound”. Not only that. The four tones even form “a true chord”, the ninth chord sounded only by four tones. They sound familiar and quite pleasant to European ears.
In the C diatonic major key, the ninth chord of the tonic (C), for example, is formed from the C as its root or bass note. By going up step-wisely from the lowest tonic note, you meet D nine diatonic steps above C: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D. According to standard rules of Western harmony, C9 is composed from C-E-G-Bb-D, with D as its highest note.
The sacred flutes that create the four tones indicate the voicing of a ninth chord. If this is a C9, there are at least two types of voicing. First, the selection of the tone sequence of C-E-G-Bb; or, second, the selection of the tone sequence of E-G-Bb-D.
Is the ninth chord detected in the sacred flutes the same as one of the tone sequences? Kunst noted down the ninth chord produced by the flutes as follows:
You can notice a practical equivalent for singing at “Transposition”. The note sequence in this diatonic key in fact consists of four out of five tones of the F9#11 chord whose B tone is not used. From the lowest to the highest tone, the complete sequence of the ninth chord is C -Eb-A-B-G. The B note not used leaves four tones: C-Eb-A-G. If you reorder this sequence, you get the ninth chord sequence Kunst discovered from the sacred flutes: C-A-Eb-G. The Eb note that sounds exactly the same as D# can also be written as D#, making another possible four-tone chord: C-A-D#-G. (See “9th chord” and “9#11 chord”.)
In addition to the ninth chord, Kunst noted down the tempo of the song played on the sacred flutes as recorded by the phonogram. The tempo was measured on the basis of the number of tones played in one minute; he got sixty tones per minute.
Another recording indicates the development of different characteristics of the melody and tempo. The melody starts with “a soft indefinable tangle of sounds, a melodious whispering in the higher tones: the playing is fast, approximately 240 tones per minute. After that, there is a plaintive movement which is repeated several times” which is presumed to be the imitation of bird calls. The plaintive movement begins with a speed of 148 tones per minute, then increases to more or less 196 tones, and finally slows down again to 148.
The melody played is as follows:
The four tones are played on four different flutes. Two are long and the other two are short.
Why the Traditional Flute Disappears
Why is the traditional flute virtually nonexistent? There are many reasons.
Obviously, the modern life the Papuans in Dutch New Guinea experienced has been one of the causes of the disappearance of the traditional flute. The modern life resulted in the tendency, particularly, among the younger Papuan generation who were educated in modern schools established by the Dutch and managed under their supervision, to prefer modern music, including the modern flute orchestra. Sooner or later, the older Papuan generation who knew the art of playing the traditional sacred flutes and their related rituals based on myths died and, therefore, could not pass on their skills to the next generation. The younger generation in turn began to see their musical culture as being inferior and shameful to the modern one.
Perhaps, a more significant or enduring cause of the disappearance of the traditional flute came from Christianity. The flutes were strongly related to anti-Christian teachings. They were used in rituals based on myths that among others dealt with spirits of the ancestors and forest (trees, animals, and so on) and beliefs that were contradictory to what the Bible taught. Dutch missionaries who understood this challenge to the Christian faith sometimes used confrontational missionary methods to overcome this challenge. They tried to do away with the anti-Christian traditional culture, including traditional music, through persistent persuasion. Through such persuasion, they built negative images of the culture with its traditional music in such a way that the Papuans won to Christ abandoned their culture and music. Generally, the missionaries were successful in their efforts.
Such persuasion, however, was not forced by the missionaries into the Papuan perception of freedom, including their freedom in making the right choices. Rev. F.J.F. van Hasselt, Jr., a Dutch missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church Missionary assigned in Manokwari as the center of the missionary work in the northern part of Dutch New Guinea since 1855, is one of those who showed prudence and persistence when he tried to persuade the Papuans to leave their old ways of life and accept the new, Christian-based life.
He came at the time the Papuans – particularly, along the north-eastern, northern, north-western, and south-western coasts of Dutch New Guinea – underwent what might be called the Great Spiritual Awakening after the Gospel was brought to them in 1855. The awakening started on January 1, 1908 and spread like a “spiritual earthquake” from its spiritual “epicenter” on the Island of Roon, north of the Wandamen (Wondama) Peninsula in the southern part of the Geelvink Bay. Papuans from these areas came in masses – in scores, hundreds, and thousands – to a new era after they and their ancestors had lived on that western part of the huge island of New Guinea in the South Pacific for around 10,000 to 40,000 years. For aeons, they had been dreaming vaguely through their sacred myths of such a “golden age”. The Biak-Numfor and a lot of other Papuan tribes had for millennia kept their mythical belief of the return of Lord of the Utopia, a Messianic figure, a mythical hero from the dim past who would bring Utopia, a kind of Welfare, Happy-Go-Lucky State to the Papuans. The Great Spiritual Awakening then made them aware that the expected Lord of the Utopia they had been dreaming about for so long was Nobody else than Jesus Christ and that the Utopia they had been yearning for during those aeons was nothing else than the Christian civilization!
The transition from the old to the new ways of life did not happen as dramatic miracles. The sober-minded Papuans frequently showed inner conflicts when faced with the consequences of abandoning their old, endearing tradition on the one hand and accepting Christianity as their new “tradition” on the other hand.
Van Hasselt, Jr. who understood their mind-set well and employed prudent and persistent persuasion came up with a solution acceptable to both biblical-based and Papuan logic. He came to them not as a “temple destroyer” but as a “liberator”. As a liberator, the Gospel he preached to the Papuans was that of “openness, freedom, [and] emancipation”, fundamental ideas understood and accepted by the Papuans.
In what specific cases did he not appear as a temple destroyer but as a liberator? There were some specific cases, but one will suffice in describing his role among the Papuans who sometimes wavered in choosing between the old and the new ways of life.
In 1910, he visited Masi-Masi in the Sarmi area, some hundred miles west of Hollandia (now, Jayapura). Darma, a traditional temple in which spirits of the ancestors were revered, was still standing. The dawet, the traditional sacred flutes, were still played in and around the temple. Van Hasselt, Jr. persuaded the Papuans to choose the church instead of the temple and the Christian God instead of the “demons” in that temple. The evil spirits in there would not make them smart but ignorant.
The Papuans finally came to a decision to let the temple be destroyed. At the missionary’s request, around 100 sacred flutes in the temple were thrown outside the temple. They were brought to the house in Masi-Masi where van Hasselt, Jr. stayed. Then, came the destruction of the temple for demons. Since 1910, both the sacred flutes and the temple in Masi-Masi where they were kept and played have disappeared from that area.
When criticized for his role in the destruction of the traditional culture of the Papuans in Masi-Masi, he defended his decision to do so. He was not a temple destroyer; instead, he was a liberator of the Papuans from their old beliefs. He got strong support from influential Papuans, such as village and clan heads in Masi-Masi, to liberate the people from their old ways of life.
Difficult to Be Developed
Apparently, those traditional flutes are hard to be developed into modern flutes. The sacred flutes have limited mouthpieces and finger holes, it is extremely difficult to blow them, they are related to traditional beliefs, and have other limitations.
This does not mean that it is impossible to modernize them. Any creative musician, Papuan or non-Papuan, can modernize them.
What I think can be developed is the four-tone melody played on the four sacred flutes. The change of the melody, its atmosphere, and tempo can be recreated by using the tones as a melodic motive. A highly imaginative musician who understands Western music and its techniques thoroughly can compose modern songs using the four tones and make them sound typically Papuan.
Possibility for Development
A comparison with the development of the nine-hole modern flute can be made. So far, only diatonic tones of an octave have been played on the flute. The tones are produced through the correct lip position at the mouthpiece and the correct blowing of the flute. At the same time, opening one finger hole while closing others according to the tones of a melody produces a song. Such lip and finger positions, however, do not create chromatic tones.
Is there is a possibility to play chromatic tones on the modern bamboo flute? Yes, there is.
How? Assuming that the flute is tuned to the key of C major, a player can transpose the key from C major to G and D major and extend the melodic range to more than one octave. What he (or she) needs to do to get the chromatic tones is to partly open his fingers from the holes! The creation of chromatic tones will enable him to not only play songs having both diatonic and chromatic tones but also to transpose his first key to another key.
Such an improvement in tonal range and colors shows clearly the capability of the creative human mind to transcend what was previously considered unthinkable or impossible. The musical reality is not a rigid wall a musician cannot “batter down” through his creativity. Instead, this reality is like “rubber”: it has a lot of creative flexibility in different dimensions.
Senin, 2008 Agustus 11
Kunst classified traditional instrumental music in Netherlands New Guinea into four main groups. First, idiophones; second, membranophones; third, chordophones; and, fourth, aerophones. The areas from which these instruments originated were also mentioned.
This group includes the music whose source is from its own body. There are five types of idiophones discovered in Dutch New Guinea:
- Musical instruments that produce rattles. They are made of dried fruits hanging like small mangoes tied to a stem or stick; they are also made of some shells connected through a piece of thin string to another piece of string tied to the body. The shells rattles when a person wearing them probably dances. Origin: Sentani Lake and Humboldt Bay.
- Bell made of a Conus shell; its tongue is usually made of a boar’s tusk. Origin: Humboldt Bay.
- Sounding block, it resembles a prow shaped like a sheath with an oblong-like hole in the middle. Origin: Humboldt Bay.
- Throwing block or thunder block, it resembles a fetus lying flat in the womb with arms and legs folded inward, facing upward. Origin: Humboldt Bay.
- Jewish harp, made of the bark of a palm tree or of a piece of bamboo, resembles a biconvex bamboo comb with three, long, pointed teeth with slots in between and with a sharp and pointed end; played with the mouth. Origins: Humboldt Bay and Sarmi.
This group consists of musical instruments whose sources of sounds are from membranes. There are also five types of membranophones discovered in Netherlands New Guinea:
- Globes drum, the larger upper part resembles a rather elongated liqueur glass with a handle, its shorter “neck” is similar to the base of the liqueur glass. Origins: Waropen Coast and Yappen.
- Transitional form between goblet and cylindrical drums; the end beaten is covered with dried animal hide. Origin: Waropen Coast.
- Thin and long bamboo (buluh) drum, the round part beaten at one end has narrow parallel lines and makes the drum look like the gill of a mushroom. Origin: Humboldt Bay.
- Two-legged drum in the form of an inverted V. Both legs support the drum that has a partly round handle, with the beaten dried hide flat on one of its end, looks round outward and has curved, parallel lines along its side, the hollow trunk of the drum has motifs. Origin: Sentani Lake.
- Hour-glass drum with a round handle holding the upper and lower parts at its neck. The upper end where the dried hide is stuck is covered with the cap-like shape of a mushroom that has very narrow, curved, parallel lines, making it resemble a flat mushroom with its gill around its cap. The handle and the upper part starting from the neck are very much decorated with local motifs; the lower part starting from the neck is sparsely decorated with a different motif.
This group of musical instruments produce their sounds from their strings. Not a single chordophone from Dutch New Guinea was noted down by Kunst except three types from Papua New Guinea during its colonial period. The self-made ukulele, contra bass, and large four-string guitar played, particularly, in the rural areas in Dutch New Guinea and even in present-day Papua and West Papua do belong to chordophones. Kunst, however, did not mention them in his book probably because they are not original products but are influenced by Western culture.
This group of musical instruments use air as its source of sound. There are ten types discovered in Netherlands New Guinea:
- End-blown wooden trumpet similar to a large Sprite bottle whose neck resembles an inverted Christmas bell with the mouthpiece at its top. The part below the neck is ornamented with certain motifs. Origins: Arso and Sentani Lake.
- Wooden trumpet with its mouthpiece near one end and blown from one side; the part of the mouthpiece is carved into a human head with a slightly slanted but pointed forehead; the back part of this hollow trunk shows a square handle resembling an ear, its lower part or base has a large round whole. Origins: Tobati, Hollandia.
- Thin bamboo flute with large-spaced joints with a round mouthpiece at one of its end, decorated slightly below it with some motifs. Origin: Saberi.
- End-blown conch trumpet from the Waropen Coast.
- Large side-blown conch trumpet, also from the Waropen Coast.
- Ocarina made of a small, hollow coconut shell with the open mouth shape of a fish carved at one end, a round hole resembling the eye of a fish near its upper middle, and a small hole at its other end through which a rope is attached for holding it. Origin: south coast of Dutch New Guinea.
- Transverse flute, carved with various motifs, with a round, u-shaped, or square hole near, in the middle, or slightly below one of its end. One of its end is closed or open. The upper part looks similar to the sharp metal point of a spear. Origins: Humboldt Bay and northern coast (Beko, Arso, Waabe, Tobati, Kaptiau).
- Short bamboo (with narrow-spaced joints) flute, open at both sides, with its mouthpiece carved slightly closer to the lower end, decorated with various motifs. Origin: north coast.
- Vertical thin bamboo flute without a finger hole on its side; instead, it has a largely flat cut hole with the rest of the outer layer sticking upward and the other end closed. Origin: north coast (Nacheibe, Ujang, and Mande).
- Five-row pan pipe consisting of five thin bamboos of different lengths tied near the upper end and serving as mouthpieces with a piece of rope; the lower end of each bamboo is cut sideways to get an oval shape hole. Origin: Merauke.
Do They Still Exist?
Various types of the tifa, the native drums, are still used. In spite of this, they may not be as many as they have been before. The increasingly dominant influence of Western music has reduced their social roles.
Do other traditional musical instruments Kunst mentioned still exist? No recent research seems to answer this question.
If they are lost, is there anybody interested in reviving them? Your accomplishment will not only be noted down and remembered. Hopefully, it will also draw the attention of other professional musicians to develop them into modern musical instruments which can enter the world music of this century.
Senin, 2008 Agustus 04
The Kauwerawet or Takutameso tribe lives in the montain range near the bank of the Mamberamo River. Dr. J. Kunst undertook his research on its vocal music.
Two of its songs were recorded. Each has more than one version and was sung by four different tribesmen.
After recording both songs and their versions, Kunst and his colleagues made further study on them. They wanted to know which parts of the melodies could be considered the most fundamental and which were variations.
Various Musical Elements of the Kauwerawets
For that reason, they had a closer look at the various elements of Kauwerawet music. What elements?
Their songs were very short, each time sung with different words. For example, one song used three different texts, each with different words. The texts are given here in their syllabic and single-syllable word forms.
The first version: En-ce ma-ri-ri bo pi-ra-wa ri-ni-o /mak a ti bi-bi-dan. There are eighteen syllables: the first line has twelve, and the second line six syllables.
Ence, a bird hunter, came from across the sea. He was killed in the highland because of love. This is the only translation Le Roux provided from the Kauwerawet songs.
The second version: A-na ma-u ki-tau ki-ta ta ra mau /sab-a-ta bu-nu ki-ta. This version also has eighteen syllables: the first line has eleven and the second seven syllables.
The third version: En-ce bo-ya bo-ya, ko-bo ra-mak o so /tom a ko-ja sa-tu. There are also eighteen syllables: the first line has twelve and the second line six syllables.
Despite the same total number of syllables in the three versions, the words for each version are different.
The translation available from one of the versions does not help us understand the meaning of the other two. We, therefore, cannot determine whether each version is a different verse that supports a main idea or one that stands apart.
In addition, the text or words of the songs are strophic. The songs are, therefore, repeated.
Meanwhile, their meters are rather free. In other words, the songs are not so strictly controlled by one type of time signature, such as 4/4 or 6/8. Such meters of the Kauwerawet songs remind us of the Gregorian chants and psalms sung in Christian services that are also meter-free.
Furthermore, the number of syllables in a line is highly varied. In the three versions of one song, the numbers of syllables in both lines of the first and third versions are the same but those in the first and second lines of the second version are slightly different. In another example, the variations in the numbers of syllables of the lines of various versions of other songs are different. These variations obviously affect the rhythms of the melodies.
To understand further the change of rhythm caused by the addition or subtraction of the number of syllables in a line, I will add some words to the first verse of a Papuan folk song from the northern-coast tribes of Dutch New Guinea, composed in the diatonic major scale and entitled Gara-Gara Janda Muda (Just Because Of A Young Widow). The original lyrics and the number of syllables of each line are as follows:
Ga-ra-ga-ra jan-da mu-da, 8 syllables
ga-ra-ga-ra jan-da mu-da, 8 syllables
ru-mah tang-ga ja-di ru-sak, 8 syllables
ru-mah tang-ga ja-di ru-sak. 8 syllables
The English translation: Just because of a young widow, just because of a young widow, the married family falls to pieces, the married family falls to pieces.
In total, there are thirty-two syllables in this folk song. The same number of syllables in each line makes it not only symmetric but also determines the types and patterns of note combinations used.
Now, the same lyrics will be modified by adding irregularly the number of syllables in each line, as follows:
Ga-ra-ga-ra Yo-se-fi-na jan-da mu-da, 12 syllables
ga-ra-ga-ra jan-da si Yo-se-fi-na, 11 syllables
Ru-mah tang-ga pa-ce ja-di ru-sak, 10 syllables
ru-mah tang-ga-nya ja-di ru-sak. 9 syllables
English translation: Just because of Josephine, a young widow, just because of Josephine, a young widow, the married family of the man falls to pieces, the married family of him falls to pieces.
Now, there are forty-two syllables that form the lyrics of this song but with irregular number of syllables for each line. In order to sing the additional syllables to the melody, a singer has to add some notes with different values to the original melody. The addition simultaneously modifies the rhythmic pattern of the song.
The expansion of the original lyrics of the coastal Papuan folk song – popular around the 1980s – explicates Kunst’s discovery of the highly varied numbers of syllables in the lines of some song versions of the Kauwerawets. Such additions remind us of those in modern popular songs in which a solo singer sometimes adds words and therefore extra notes to an original song backed up by a duet, trio, or choir. The addition in a modern popular song however supports the main idea in the lyrics of the song.
What other typical characteristic is noticeable from the music of the Kauwerawet tribe? The imitation of bird voices woven by a singer into his song. When the recording was made, the imitation of bird chirps or twitters by the singer was not only woven into the song but also pleasant to the musical ears of the phonogram recorders. During the recording, the crow of a rooster and the natural quacks of ducks around the site for recording were even recorded and formed “natural” rhythm with the imitation of bird chirps or twitters by a male singer. Komasa, one of the male singers, was an expert in imitating bird songs.
Imitating bird songs was not only through the human voice. They could also be imitated by traditional musical instruments in other parts outside the area inhabited by the Kauwerawets, such as in the northeast coast of Dutch New Guinea. G. A. J. van der Sande, a Dutch researcher who joined an expedition to Netherlands New Guinea early 2oth century, observed the skills of the coastal people living in the Humboldt Bay in imitating bird songs through their sacred flutes. These are not the nine-hole bamboo flutes – thinner than the thick bamboo and with more space between two joints – used in modern flute orchestras, such as in church services. This bamboo flute probably originated from the influence of Molluccan Christians who brought it to Dutch New Guinea at the turn of the 2oth century; since then, the bamboo-flute orchestra has become a musical tradition among Papuan Christians. The sacred flute van der Sande noticed was made from a long piece of thin bamboo with more space between two joints. One of its end had a hole with a sliced circle that resembled the U letter; this part that was close to the end was carved with various motifs. The flute was sacred because it was used only in traditionally sacred rituals.
The Indonesian language distinguishes between “bambu” and “buluh” just termed “bamboo” in English. Both belong to the same plant family. The bambu, however, is thicker than the buluh and has less space among its joints when compared with that among the buluh joints.
A modern nine-hole flute is made of buluh. The sacred flute used in the Humboldt Bay as witnessed by van der Sande was also made from buluh.
Why were bird songs imitated in the traditional music of the people living in northeast Dutch New Guinea and of the Kauwerawets? Van der Sande presumed the birds whose songs were imitated through the sacred flutes in the Humboldt Bay were a part of the religious beliefs in their pre-Christian tradition. Based on van der Sande’s presumption, Dr. J. Kunst also presumed that the bird-song imitation in the songs of the Kauwerawet tribe also originated from their traditional belief.
The technique of imitating animal voices in traditional songs in Papua was also observed among singers of the Pesechem tribe. It lives along the slopes of the southern part of the present-day Jayawijaya mountains. According to Kunst, however, the animal voices the Pesechem songs imitated through the Pesechem singers were intertwined and served as musical ornaments.
In fact, imitating animal voices has become a singing technique in some commercial music of the 20th century. It is apparent, for example, in the hoarse singing voice of a famous black-American trumpeter and jazz singer of the last century: Louis Amstrong. In some of his songs (such as Hello, Dolly), he imitated a voice similar to that of the growl of a dog or wolf – in short, a jungle voice – which was later known as “growl” in modern pop/jazz singing techniques.
Aside from the various jungle voices woven into traditional and modern music, Kunst’s ears that were accustomed to European melodies perceived two distinctive characteristics of the traditional songs of the Kauwerawet tribe. First, they are short; and, second, they tend to descend the scale.
According to him, both indicate the earliest layer of Papuan culture. Both show primitive melodies equal to those of the Australian aborigines. Due to their identical cultural layer, the Kauwerawet melodies belong to the Australian (aborigine) type of music. Similar music was also discovered in the songs of the native islanders in the Torres Strait, between north Australia and south Dutch New Guinea. “. . . it is undoubtedly the most primitive music known at the present day.”
What about the melody rhythms of the Kauwerawets and the tribes living in the Humboldt Bay as well as on the island of Yapen? The rhythmic patterns or forms of their melodies are simple. Some tones have small values followed by a tone sustained slightly longer, usually a low-sounding tone. The rhythm however can develop if the melody is accompanied by a text or words. The addition of the text can result in the combination of sixteenth notes, triplets, and quintuplets. The frequency of using triplets – each lasting for one beat in, for example, 4/4 songs – in Kauwerawet melodies was already observed in the traditional music of Papua New Guinea, later called Papua Nugini. The one-beat triplets are also heard in the melodies of the Humboldt Bay and Central Mountain Range tribes. Dr. J. Kunst himself listened to 6/8 songs containing triplets when he observed the songs of the singers from the Humboldt Bay and Yapen who took part in the Ethnographic Exhibition in Weltevreden – nowadays, Jatinegara (Jakarta) – in Batavia.
The use of triplets and quintuplets does not indicate typical rhythmic patterns of Papuan melodies. Triplets are also very common in the traditional melodies of the aborigines in Queensland (Australia) and in those of the Melanesians along the coasts of New Guinea as well as in those of the ethnic groups living in Nias, Sunda (West Java), and Flores in the former Dutch Indies.
To understand the cores of such melodies to identify their nature in a nutshell, Kunst frequently used melodic form schemes. In particular, what are the melodic form schemes of the two Kauwerawet songs discussed at the beginning of this chapter and their versions? Kunst gave two notes on their schemes, with the second scheme as the most clearly identified.
The first and second melodic scheme shows the range of one octave. While the first starts and ends with its C tonic, the second begins and ends with its F tonic, rare start and ending in modern music. The downward movement of the melody is obvious from each scheme.
What are the scales then that underlie the melodic structures of both Kauwerawet songs? The first scale is composed of four main notes, one of them – the tonic (I)- is repeated. The second scale was an estimate from the results of three different recording. The E and D notes were estimated to exist in the scale.
The capital Roman numerals under each note of the three scale forms demonstrates the types of intervals used. The scale forms, however, are not based on Western major or minor scales; as a result, we may find it hard to apply whole tones and semitones in Western music to the three Kauwerawet music scales.
For example, the distance between the highest C and A notes in the second scale show a third interval (C-B-A) in the Western diatonic major C scale. According to rules in Western music, Roman numeral III should have been written under the A note. In the scale underlying the Kauwerawet melody, however, the A note is the second note after the highest C. Therefore, the A note forms a second interval with its previous C note. In short, it is the note sequence in that Papuan traditional scale that determines the type of interval used.
What types of intervals were frequently sung by the Kauwerawet singers? According to Kunst, the average intervals they sang include the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth intervals.
Another recording of Kauwerawet songs demonstrates a mixture of solo and choir singers. There are four male singers, one of them can be considered the solo singer whereas the other three form the choir also joined by the solo singer. The solo singer always sings the melody and three singers sing along at the key notes of the song.
The third scale forms the basis for the solo song. Meanwhile, the scale for the choir uses the E and B notes, each of which is lowered to a semitone and becomes Eb and Bb. Both notes remind us of the blues notes in blues music in America.
The principal note for the choir begins from the first F note. It lasts until the second F note one octave lower. Based on Western musicology, the choir part, however, was added as a harmonic line to the solo scale by Kunst.
At the choir section, the voices of the four singers do not sound in tune. According to Western standards of good singing, the rhythm and melody in their singing are ragged, “untidy”. However, they are in unison when they sing sustained notes. Kunst said their typical choir singing is an important characteristic of primitive music.
Another variation of one of the Kauwerawet songs results in another melodic form scheme and scale. The scheme is shown at the third melodic scheme. Its scale – the fifth scale -has the E note that seems to be suggested in the scale.
The Modernization of Kauwerawet Songs
The music of the Kauwerawet or Takutameso tribe belongs to the most primitive music. This category is known from three prominent characteristics: its melodies are short, they tend to descend the scale, and the choir singing is ragged. Their music, according to Kunst, indicates the earliest layer of the history of the Papuans.
In spite of these, some other characteristics of their songs can be traced forward to modern music, including that performed in Indonesia. Other characteristics are typical of Kauwerawet music and that of other tribes in Dutch New Guinea and Papua New Guinea. What characteristics?
- The song texts are strophic, a characteristic noticeable in a lot of modern songs influenced by Western music in Indonesia.
- There are slightly free meters in the songs. This tendency can also be noticed from psalm songs and Gregorian chants used in Christian services in Indonesia and abroad.
- The imitation of bird songs in the Kauwerawet songs and the playing of the sacred flutes in the Humboldt Bay seem to be connected to the religious beliefs of these tribes. For the Pesechem tribe, the imitation of animal voices is a musical ornament. In modern music of the last century, the imitation of animal voices, such as the growl in some of the songs sung by Louis Amstrong, reminds us of their primitive origin.
- Other characteristics of the Kauwerawet melodies include their brevity, tendency to descend the scale, and ragged choir singing. These characteristics are rare in modern music, except in short children’s songs, “Amen” or “Hallelujah! Amen” songs in Christian services, commercial advertisement songs or melodies, and some disco songs.
- The typical rhythmic patterns of the Kauwerawet songs include different intervals and notes with different values, including triplets and quintuplets. In particular, triplets are also found in the melodies in the Humboldt-Bay, Yapen, Queensland, Melanesia, and Dutch Indies. Triplets frequently appear in modern music but quintuplets seem to be rarely used in modern music, such as popular music.
- The longest traditional scale known so far in Papuan traditional music has six notes. The shortest scale has four notes.
- The first to the sixth intervals are used in the scales. Rules about intervals for Kauwerawet melodies are different from those for Western diatonic music.
- The melodic form schemes for Kauwerawet songs are also typical because they are influenced by the scales that underlie them.
Obviously, there are some main characteristics of the melodies of the Kauwerawet and other Papuan tribes discussed so far. Some can be observed in modern music in Indonesia that are influenced by Western music. Others are typical of Papuan songs; they are not found or hard to find in modern music.
To enable Papuan ethnic music to be a part of the music of this century, professional Papuan and non-Papuan musicians have to modernize it. Life is change; therefore, the traditional Papuan music has to change, too. It has to be adapted to the musical trends of this century if it wants to become a part of modern music. Few people seem to like traditional music as it is. The majority, however, who are used to modern music will feel alienated from such traditional music. Therefore, Papuan traditional music has to be modernized, adapted to the demands of modern life.
How can Papuan and non-Papuan musicians modernize Papuan ethnic music with such characteristics? The following answers are subjective:
- Modernizing traditional Papuan songs should not eliminate their characteristics, including their typical features. Their elimination will make them identical with those of modern songs. Without identity, the modernized Papuan songs will lose their typicality and the chance for adding at least a new genre to the world music heritage.
- The recreation of traditional Papuan songs needs their modernization power from modern music, such as melodic and harmonic variations. Nevertheless, their typical marks have to be retained to strengthen their identity.
- Both secular and religious modern songs can be recreated based on the characteristics of traditional Papuan songs.
- The most primitive element of the songs can be emphasized by recreating it. The newly created music can express the primitive sides of man, such as his jealousy and tendencies for revenge as well hatred.
- To modernize Papuan ethnic music, musicians should be professional. They also need to show perseverance if they want to achieve significant results.