Kōauau are cross-blown flutes which were traditionally made from albatross wing bone, moa bone or human bone; a variety of soft and hard woods; and occasionally stone.
According to the legend, the papupaiarehe, or fairies, were the experts at playing the kōauau. As the sound travels far, an unseen player can still create drama in this way.
In Maori cosmogony a story tells of the God singing the universe into existence. Thus music is important and so special that traditionally, it needed a reason to be performed. The reasons for the existence of all the instruments is part of Maori mythology and the instruments are perceived as families descended from children of the Gods. Mythology tells how the primal parents Rangi and Papa, the Sky Father and Earth Mother were for ages in close embrace with their children cramped between them. Eventually the children, led by Tane, forced them apart and then had to set about creating order in their new expanded world. Firstly they clothed the sky with ever changing clouds and slow moving stars and the earth was clothed with plants to give beauty and birds to add song.
Brian Flintoff is a master bone-carver, whose work is held on marae through Aotearoa and in private and public collections and museums throughout the world. He has been carving for over 35 years, and has been most influenced in his work by traditional Maori artists, as well as artists from other indigenous cultures, especially that of the West Coast Canadian Indian tribes. He is the author ofTaonga Puoro: Singing Treasures, about the musical instruments of the Maori, and Brian is also widely regarded as one of Aotearoa’s pre-eminent makers of Maori instruments. He works from his home studio in Nelson.