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Traditional Maori Musical Instruments

Traditional Maori Instruments
Traditional Maori Musical Instruments

Nga Taonga Puoro

Hue (Gourd) Instruments

Hue Puruhau

Deep vibrating sound used to pacify tangaroa (god of the sea).

Hue Puruwai

Dried intact, it is twisted to create "rain" sound with seeds rattling inside.


Twirled on a string, this instrument imitates various bird songs depending on size and shape of gourds and holes in them. The string inside also vibrates as gourd spins.

Koauau Ponga Ihu

Small gourd with top removed and two small holes. Blowing across the top with one nostril produces flute-like sound.


These can be made from various bones, wood, antlers or pottery. Hollowed out tubes with two to five finger holes, they are flutes with haunting melody that vibrates, sometimes with vocalisation. Albatross wing bones are the premier material.

Koauau Iwi Moa (ostrich egg)
Koauau Iwi Moa (ostrich egg)
Koauau Iwi Moa/Kiwi

This is an exciting rediscovery I made recently whilst making some of these instruments. I had an emu egg on my bench partially carved and it occurred to me to see if it could make a sound. I added an extra hole at the opposite end to the blow hole and a couple of small ones on the side. The sound is awesome! I asked Hirini Melbourne, an expert on Maori instruments, if he had any knowledge of moa or kiwi eggs being uses as koauau. He didn't but a week later, he rang and told me of an archaeologist's discovery of kiwi egg fragments with holes in them. I then obtained some ostrich eggs and the beautiful sound confirmed the strong likelihood that eggs were used for this purpose. Hopefully, this will become a valued addition to the revival of the use and knowledge of Taonga Puoro.


The name implies the binding of two voices, instrument and human, to create spirit voice. Usually made from two bones joined (i.e., albatross) or wood hollowed, they produce two distinct (male & female) voices, one trumpet-like, one flute-like.

porotiti and purerehua
Porotiti and Purerehua

Often used as a toy, the alternating spin produces a whizzing or whirring sound. This sound is enhanced by carving the surface, used for healing by spinning over areas of rheumatism or arthritis, the sound vibration massages joints in a similar way to modern ultrasound.


Also known as "Bull-roarer" and made of bone, wood or stone, they are blade-like and swing on a long cord producing a loud, deep whirring that can be heard from a distance. Uses vary from luring lizards, summoning rain and attracting a soul mate to several being played together at a Tangi (funeral).


Similar to a Jew's harp, it is a finely whittled piece of bone or wood that vibrates at the lips and against the teeth when plucked.


Castanet-type percussive instrument made of bone, shell or hardwood clicked between thumb and forefinger.


Conch shell with carved mouthpiece and very rate in Aotearoa. Sounds vary from "trumpet" to melodic sobs by placing palm of hand in the opening side while blowing makes a whale-like sound.

View my Taonga Puoro page for more examples of traditional Maori musical instruments carved in many unusual materials.

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