While the individual holes create distinctly different resonant pitches, this instrument is not perceived as a melodic instrument by the Na’vi. It is used as a strictly rhythmic accompaniment for social dances and, with multiple drummers, can create a mesmerizing polyrhythm. During Uniltaron, or “Dream Hunt,” women take over the drumming activities. It is felt that the ecstatic behavior of the men during Uniltaron is so wild and erratic, they may unintentionally harm themselves by trying to climb and play this tree.
Na’vi drummers will strike the holes of a selected Hometree limb with wide soft fibrous paddles called nik’hih lo’simanu. The tree drum may be played by one drummer or many simultaneously. Some drummers will stand on the ground and strike openings within their reach. Others will climb the tree to strike the highest holes, supported by a sling around their butts, similar to Earth’s lumberjacks or utility pole workers. (Read more)