Pātē from Samoa
|Other names||French Polynesia) Kā'ara (Mangaia)|
|Hornbostel–Sachs classification||classification needed|
|Lali, Slit drum|
The Pātē is a percussion instrument of Cook Islands Māori origin, named after the Māori word for "beat" or "pulse". It is of the slit drum family, and therefore is also of the idiophone percussion family. It is made from a hollowed-out log, usually of Miro wood and produces a distinctive and loud sound. Different sizes of pate offer different pitches and volumes, as well as striking the pate in the middle or near the ends.
It was introduced to Sāmoa by Cook Islands missionaries from Rarotonga intended to be used to call meetings in the Sāmoan villages. In recent times however it has replaced the traditional Sāmoan fala as a musical instrument. Because of the widespread distribution of Sāmoan music, the use of the Pātē has gained much popularity among other Western Polynesians such as Tokelau and Niue.
Unfortunately this has led to the cultural authenticity and integrity of Cook Islands drumming to be disentegrated to a certain extent because of the uniqueness of the Pātē's sound being heavily generalised as "Polynesian". Within this foreign environment the Pātē simply provides a beat, however its origins have deep spiritual roots that are still found in Cook Islands drumming today.
First a segment of a hardwood tree trunk or thick branch is taken and stripped of its bark. Holes are then bored into the log in a straight line, from one end to the other, optionally leaving some space at each end. What remains in between the holes is then chiseled out, forming the characteristic slit. After this, the log continues to be hollowed out through the slit. Both the shape of the slit and the extent that the log is gutted will affect the tone and pitch of the pate.