CHUMASH MUSIC, DANCE & CEREMONIES


Shell RattleMusic was a very important part of Chumash Indian culture, and the Chumash had a great variety of songs for different events,  rituals, ceremonies, festivals, and just about any other part of everyday life. Sometimes, songs served as instructions for food preparation, warfare, hunting rituals, or healing the sick; there were even gambling songs.

Singing was the most important part of Chumash music, but it was often accompanied by unique instrumentation;

The shell rattle (pictured to the right) were made with seashells or turtle shells filled with coarse sand or pebbles, and and sealed with tar.

Other percussion instruments included the clapper stick, made from split pieces of elderberry wood, which was used instead of drums.

Other more eclectic instruments included the bull-roarer, made from a a perforated piece of wood tied to the end of a cord, which was spun to produce a low-end roar, and musical bows which produced an undulating high pitched tone, not unlike that of a musical saw.

Flutes were made of various sizes made from bones and other materials, in pitches ranging from lower mid-range to very high. Bird bones were used to make whistles.

During Chumash ceremonies, dances were performed in honor of the different creatures from Chumash mythology.  The Eagle, the Bear, and the Coyote were represented, as were creatures of the sea such as the Dolphin and the Swordfish, for which the ceremonial dancer would wear an actual swordfish skull on his head.


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Last modified: May 09, 2003