Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Conch Shell Trumpet (Davui)

late 19th century
Shell (Ranella lampas)
Height: 10 in. (25.4 cm) Width: 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Aerophone-Lip Vibrated-trumpet / trombone
Credit Line:
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Accession Number:
Not on view
As in many parts of the Pacific, conch shell trumpets in Fiji, called davui, produce a loud sound that carries over long distances and were used as signaling devices rather than played as part of musical ensembles. This example is from the western portion of the island of Viti Levu, whose inhabitants formerly created a distinctive variety of davui. A unique feature of Western Viti Levu shell trumpets is the presence of a small finger hole, bored near the mouth of the shell, which allowed the player to vary the pitch when playing, creating a rising and falling tone. Virtually all other Pacific trumpets emit only a single note. In contrast to other Fijian conch shell trumpets, western Viti Levu davui were end-blown, with a blowing hole made by removing the apex of the shell, rather than side blown (using a hole made in the side of the instrument). They were also frequently decorated, as here, with elaborate rope-like tassels made from coconut husk fiber while those in other parts of Fiji were unornamented.
Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown ; [ W. D. Webster ]
Catalogue of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments: Oceanica and America. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1913, vol. II, pg. 41, ill.

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