SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Track 2: Pai Ritual Drumming

The pachyu shamans play the small vessel drum podu and the barrel-shaped drum herga. This piece is performed on the very first day of the most important event in the Tamu life cycle, the pai ritual, the three-day death memorial observation. It may also be given during mhiwaba funeral rites; whereas mhiwaba are held on the actual day of the funeral, the pai ritual is usually held, not straight after the death, but between one and five years after the funeral. In the past, the Tamu buried their dead; these days, cremation prevails.

The Tamu regard these rhythmic patterns as extremely sad, as they function to represent the search for the dead's polluted soul in the three nether worlds beneath the earth. The two drums play inter-locking sound patterns, using one, two, three or four brat cycles that frequently change as the tempo is steadily increased. We could speculate as to whether the inter-locking sound patterns of the two drums represent the split pulls of human life or the struggle between doing good and doing bad, particularly since bad deeds left undone at death remain as pollution that must be removed before the soul can ascend to the upper worlds.