The term “Melanesian music,” used in the broadest sense, covers a wide range of traditional styles ranging from the multiple genres of tribal songs found in Papua New Guinean singsings to Australia’s Aboriginal didgeridoo drones, from Solomon Islanders’ polyphonic pan pipes to Fijian lali drumming. Melanesians have long used a variety of slit-log gongs, flutes and bamboo pipes in their music but only recently, with the arrival of the Europeans, have they added stringed instruments like guitars and ukeleles into the mix. For example, Fijian music blends Melanesian and Polynesian forms and embraces multi-part harmony. Fijian string bands, like the Shefa boys seen rehearsing in this video, are groups of three or more performers playing guitar/ukelele/mandolin and singing in sweet multi-part harmony.
Tag Archives | Fiji
“Bula Maleya” may well be Fiji’s favorite song. It originated with Fijian soldiers who fought, as members of the British Commonwealth, in the British military campaign to fight the Japanese in Malaysia (then Maleya) during World War II. During the battles Fijian and Malayan soldiers became friendly and wrote this song to mark their cooperation.
Fijians have adopted “Bula Maleya” as a welcome song, singing it readily to greet tourists arriving on the islands. There are a several versions of the song, some more bawdy than another, but FijiIslands.com translates the song in a way we and the kids in our classes can sing it: “Greetings Malaya and Fiji also, All the young men are very strong, Talking to the sea, gives me happiness, Hello, hello everyone. Remember Fiji, a small country, With a will to move forward, Fiji will grow to be famous, For Malaya to be known in the world, We found each other again, We will celebrate gloriously, We patriotically declare, The name of Fiji for the honour of the Queen.”
This week in our online class for kids we visit the Melanesian nation of Fiji.. There is disagreement among historians and archaeologists as to exactly when humans came to Fiji, though the general consensus is that people had arrived in the islands by about 1,500 B.C. There is agreement that two distinct groups settled Fiji; Melanesians, dark-skinned settlers who arrived in Fiji by way of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, and lighter-skinned Lapita people, skilled navigators and fishers from New Caledonia who had originated in Southeast Asia’s Malay Peninsula. Later, the Lapita people left Fiji for islands further east, seeding the Polynesian islands like Tonga and Samoa. This left Fiji primarily to the Melanesians.
Whoever settled the place and when, today most Fijians live on the two main islands, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu; because Viti Levu’s interior is rugged most Fijians who call the island home live in the surprisingly urban Suva.
Two days ago we sang the Fijian song “Chuluchululu” with our Fijian Uncle Johnny in the backyard. Yesterday we song the Fijian song “Chuluchululu” with New Zealand buddies Bill and Boyd. Today we sing the very same song together! Just us, in class…our own way. And see? Singing the word “Chuluchululu” is still fun.
We really enjoy singing this song from Fiji, not in small part because we love singing the word “Chuluchululu.” Here we get to sing it with our Fijian family, most notably our favorite uncle. Doesn’t Uncle Johnny rock?
As we learned yesterday, dancers in the Pacific Islands tell extensive, epic stories with their hands. In the Melanesian island nation of Fiji, dancers choreograph hand motions along to narrative songs called mekes. This week we “try our hand” at a sitting-down meke, telling a tall tale about sailing the Pacific seas.
In the Melanesian island nation of Fiji, and elsewhere around the Pacific, dancers don’t even have to stand up to be fantastic. This video shows us a “sitting down dance” in which Fijian dancers use their arms and hands to tell a story.