Audio Tours



These four slit gong drums come from the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Slit-gongs are found throughout the entire Oceanic region and are made from hollowed-out tree trunks and played using a long piece of wood two to four feet long, similar to a baseball bat. They produce a variety of deep, resonating sounds. Drums from Vanuatu are played upright, in other places they're played horizontally.

(pause for audio of drums)

Carving styles differ from island to island. Some depict spirits, others ancestors.

Tribal art expert Michael Hamson.

Each culture, each clan might have a specific meaning for each particular design that they use. Just from the design anybody from that area will be able to recognize, "Oh, that's the design of this particular clan." And there will be a certain history or story or symbolism associated with the design.

The drums are vessels to receive messages from ancestors and sacred spirits, but they serve a practical purpose, too. They are used to communicate important events or to send messages to the community.

They have their own special tone that each member of the village recognizes. So you'll be walking in the bush and all of a sudden you'll hear this 'boom-boom-boom' 'boom-boom-boom-boom.' And the people will stop in their tracks and listen, and then they'll know who sent it and what the message was.

Additional slit gong drums from Papua New Guinea are found here in the John Lee Court and other types of drums are in the adjacent Spirits and Headhunters gallery.

The drum music titled Singsing-Danis Kastom on Vanuatu. New Hebrides was recorded by Peter Crowe and produced by AIMP-MEG.

Step20-Slit-gong Drums, Vanuatu

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