Garamut – Call to Mass

Here’s a little bit of video that I wasn’t able to incorporate elsewhere.  I think you’ll find it interesting.

A garamut is a large slit-drum made from the trunk of a tree.  I think it’s used primarily in the coastal regions of PNG, but I’m not sure about that.   As I understand, these drums have traditionally played an important role in sending messages out to far flung villagers to announce important events, gatherings, rituals, etc.

Many of the churches use garamuts to call people to Mass, especially since church bells are hard to come by.  Some churches do have bells, brought in by missionaries, but the garamut is much more common.

In this short video, you can see how George, one of the seminarians at St. Fidelis, calls the students and staff to morning Mass.  The pattern he uses is unique to the area and the local villagers will recognize it and know that it’s for Mass at the seminary.

Other parishes that I’ve visited have their own unique patterns.  I’m also told that garamuts are used for other sorts of message, including announcing the death of local villagers.

With the ubiquitous presence of cell phones these days, I’m afraid that the use of the garamut is fading and being relegated to only ceremonial uses.  I hope they find a way to preserve this unique aspect of their culture.


Garamut from Steve Nelson on Vimeo.

5 thoughts on “Garamut – Call to Mass

  1. Reminds me of the way the old church bells used to chime, and still do in some places. Starts out slow, then speeds up with a cacophony of ringing, then fades out slowly, finally with the bells swinging but the clapper not hitting the bell.

    • That’s very interesting. I’m sure no one remembers how/why this particular pattern of drumming came to be. It may have come from some old school Capuchin missionary when the school was founded in the late 60’s. Perhaps they were inspired by the bells.

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