New Drums in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands News recently reported that a set of pates and pau (traditional drums) carved by Miimetua Simona and purchased by the Ministry of Culture were blessed last week. Drums are significant in any cultural Cook Islands dance show. 

The sounds of the pate, pau mango and pau elevate and boost the performance of the ura pa’u (fast beat). “It is important the correct types of wood are used for the instruments,” said Simona.

Miro (Pacific Rosewood) and tamanu (Island Mahogany) are used for the pates and albesia wood is carved for the pa’u and pa’u mango, the slender drum sticks are made from the toa tree.

Simona was taught to carve by his father Avele, who is from Aitutaki. He was determined to master the skill on his own and improved his craft as he continued to make drums. “I don’t rush, I take my time and finally, I’ve mastered it,” he said. “We Aitutakians are known as good carvers, we are passionate about carving.”

Simona completed his first set of drums for the Ministry of Culture within four weeks. Canvas was used for the drum bass instead of the traditional goat skins, mindful of past issues of travelling with animal skin products across international borders.

Minister of Culture George Angene acknowledged Simona’s skills and was pleased with the quality of the cultural instruments. “It is time that the ministry has its very own set to use instead of borrowing,” said Angene.

Secretary of Culture Anthony Turua said in the past few years the number of performances have increased and the demand has been quite high for cultural teams, regionally and internationally and for promotional purposes.

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Cook Islands drums- photo from http://www.youtube.com

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