Belembaotuyan

Name: Belembaotuyan.
Type: Idiophones > Percussion > Idiochord > Musical Bow.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: Guam.
Region: Pacific Ocean.

Description: The Belembaotuyan is a musical percussion bow played in Guam by the chamorro people. Alternatively spelt belumbaotuyan, belenbaotuchan and belimbau-tuyan.

Sharing common roots with the Brazilian bow in both playing technique and construction. This percussion bow was introduced to the Chamorro people by trade between Asia and Africa during the 19th century.

Etymology: The name of the instrument comes from the words belembao [in Chamorro: meaning the ‘swaying of the trees’ and tuyan which is Chamorro for stomach].

History: In Guam the belembaotuyan has been a part of weddings and other ceremonies, such as the Chamorro Month celebrations in schools. Though in recent times it has seen a decline due to loss in popularity.

Construction: The belembaotuyan is made by attaching a string to a long, flat, wooden stick. On top of which is a resonating gourd. Usually the string is cut from metal wire and attached to either end of the bow.

Similar alternative materials including string or fishing line can be used in place of the metal wire for the main playing string. In the past alternative materials did include the wire found in rubber tires as a suitable material for a playing string.

The same is applied for the sections of wire or string holding the playing string in place on either end of the instrument. The strings that hold the playing string taught also provide room for the two pitches to be played. Not unlike the birimbau seashells are placed on either end to increase the clarity of the sound.

The length of the wooden stick can be between 1.2 m / 4 ft and 2.7 m / 9 ft long. The wood used for the body of the instrument has usually been Pacific Rosewood or hibiscus tree, both of which grow locally. Wood from young trees had been preferred as it is more flexible and easier to bend. A wider body is used to produce a better sound.

The gourd has usually been made of coconut or tagua, and they produce different sound: though coconut shells are easy to handle, they are much smaller, harder and are prone to cracking.

The thin playing stick is made out of bamboo and is usually about a 0.3 m or a foot in length. The string used on the instrument has traditionally been made of wild pineapple fibre, whereas now it has been replaced by metal wires, which produce a louder and brighter sound.

Citations: Bibliography: Pangelinan, Therese Q. Crisostomo July 14, 2014 ; “Belembaotuyan”. Website: guampedia.com

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