The Bumayong' mission station, near Lae, has something of a reputation as a centre of music.
The Bumayong' mission station, near Lae, has something of a reputation as a centre of music. But its music is different. Numbers, not notes, make up the score and the instruments used by the mission bandsmen are home-made.
They play from a hymnal - numbered for conch shells. The shells have corresponding numbers and tunes are formed by each bandsmen playing in turn. The band was set up by Pastor Zahn, the first Lutheran missionary in the Morobe district of northern New Guinea. Wama, who is fourteen, is its newest recruit. And these days, the responsibility for tuning new instruments is in the hands of the conductor, Mr. Apo.
A hammer and a hacksaw take the place of a tuning fork. About the turn of the century, Pastor Zahn discovered that the big conch shells of the north-east coast could be tuned according to size. He also found that note variation could be achieved by putting different quantities of wax inside. Of course, he had to provide a blowing hole.
The music and dancing of New Guinea have been under discussion recently. Following the Australian tour of the Ballet Africaine, it's been suggested that a New Guinea ballet should be formed to visit Australia. This prompted a camera team from A.B.C. news to see what New Guinea has to offer. A big "sing-sing" at Lae was to provide the opportunity.