By Srimal Fernando
In the vast blue Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and Australia lie some of the most beautiful, unspoiled island destinations of our planet. Proceeding westward across the Pacific from Polynesia to Melanesia and Micronesia, we find islands Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Samoan Islands, Tahiti, Tonga, Niue , Kiribati ,New Caledonia and a host of small islands. The diverse cultures of these 7000 to 10000 islands of the South Pacific have been shaped by isolation, migration and the vast ocean settings. These forces have in turn influenced the local styles of music and dance. The Pacific Islands are not just admired for its beauty but also for its fabulous dances and music. Music and dance is an integral part of the life of South Pacific islanders. Indeed, the songs and dances are woven into the very fabric of everyday life. For many South Pacific people, dance is one of the crucial threads that bind past, present and future. The Islanders are natural musicians, who love to hear and sing good music. They compose songs for every trivial occasion. This vibrant region offers the explorer, myriad of opportunities in cultures, festivals and in foods.
Fiji is the land of broad smiles, flashing white teeth; gentle relaxation with absolutely no stress .The music of Fiji represents not only its indigenous traditions but that of India, China, Europe and other Pacific islands. The most popular traditional Fijian dance is the meke in which voices and dance are combined. Different types of meke include the war dance, men’s club and spear dance, as well as the men’s or women’s fan dance. Women’s standing dance and the sitting dance are performed by men or women. Both men and women perform in the meke, and the dance is viewed as a mixed dance in which men are expected to demonstrate their virile movements, while women are expected to be graceful and feminine. Poi is another form of dance performed at fire-walking shows. Poi is now performed primarily by women, who often mix singing with the traditional poi dance movements. Fijian music styles and structures include Polynesian and Melanesian music with the variation in style between one area and another.
Vanuatu Islands known as ‘Land Eternal’ is a “Y” shaped chain of 83 islands lying 800km west of Fiji. It’s a land of volcanoes and magic, underwater ship wrecks, ancient art and dance, waterfalls ,organic foods and myriad of hidden bays and beaches . The traditional music of Vanuatu feature instruments such as the tam-tam drum, which is intricately carved from a log, as well as pan-pipes, conch shells and gongs. Popular genres of modern commercial music, which are currently being played in towns, include zouk music and reggaeton. Reggaeton is a variation of hip-hop rapped in Spanish language, played alongside its own distinctive beat. The traditional music of Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas.
Cultural Reflections of the South Pacific - Part 2