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Last Updated: Jan 16, 2011

Ipus & Ipu Hekes from The Gourd Connection

Gourds are products of nature and their shape is determined by the seed. Every Ipu Heke is a unique individual and the gourds will have marks reflecting their growth in the field. Gourds are used throughout the world for utilitarian, musical, and spiritual functions. In Polynesia, where the volcanic and coral land lacks clay for pottery and metal for manufacturing, the uses and artistry of the gourd reached an advanced level. This is seen particularly in Hawai`i, where gourds of all shapes and sizes were transformed into serving at least 43 separate functions! Many were decorated with precise geometric patterns. Gourds were so highly valued that special care was taken in their planting, cultivation and harvest.

The gourds that were brought to Hawai`i through hundreds of years of Polynesian migration were the same Lagenaria Siceraria gourds that occur throughout the temperate regions of the world. Special cultivation procedures may have produced some specimens uniquely qualified for their intended use, and indeed there were some huge gourds used for the storage of food and cloth.

In Hawai`i, Gourd drums were used to accompany chanting during festive as well as spiritual occasions. In ancient Hawai`i, as handed down through the Hawaiian oral tradition, and as depicted in the early explorers' drawings, the main gourd drum was known as the Ipu Hula, or Ipu Heke (pronounced EE-poo HEH-kay), which was made out of 2 gourds: a larger, longer bottom gourd called the 'Olo (OH-low); and, joined at the neck, a smaller, far shorter gourd called the Heke, which means "top". Visitors to Hawai`i today, upon seeing this drum, often believe it is a single gourd of a variety unique to Hawai`i, until they are shown where the two gourds are joined.

With the introduction of foreign disease pests, particularly the fruit fly, gourds growing in Hawai`i began to die out. During this decline, as gourds became rarer, the Hawaiian drum was adapted from a double gourd drum to a single gourd drum, known as the Ipu (EE-poo) or more precisely as the Ipu Heke`ole (EE-poo HEH-kay-`OH-lay), and the variety used was the bottle shape. Today gourds are no longer grown commercially in Hawai`i, and most gourds are imported from California.

The Gourd Connection specializes in the manufacture of these Hawaiian gourd drums. The owner is from a long-time kama`aina (Hawai`i resident) family, with additional training in ancient chants, ancient and modern hula, and Hawaiian language. We have a complete range of drum sizes, and offer instruction materials for those who would like complete information, particularly on Hawaiian drumming technique, rhythms, and terminology.

Our price categories reflect the increasing rarity of good ipu gourds as they increase in size. We guarantee all drums to have the sound you expect them to have. Gourds that don't meet our requirements for sound production become bowls, vases, and other decorative items.

The Gourd Connection
San Diego, California

Email: alohaipu@cox.net

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