The music of Fiji represents the indigenous tradition along with those of India, China, Europe and other Pacific islands. Fijian music styles and structures include and combine Polynesian and Melanesian music with the variation in style between one area and another.
Fijians play both indigenous instruments as well as the guitar, ukulele and mandolin. Several kinds of lali drums are the main indigenous instruments. They were formerly a means of communication, announcing events of social significance, such as wars, victories, births and deaths, each of which was announced by their own distinctive rhythmic patterns. Today, the large lali are used to call people to church or for calling them together. The lali are made of hardwood, shaped and hollowed out to produce a deep resonance, which can be heard of a distance of eight kilometres. A smaller type of lali, the lali ni meke is used to accompany chanting and dances. The lali ni meke is 75-100 cm long, and tapered at either end with a rectangular block cut out of the central portion. In addition, the derua (bamboo stamping tubes) of varying lengths are beaten on the ground or on mats. Sometimes, clapping is used to accompany the derua in providing the rhythmic basis of traditional Fijian music.
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Many different genres in Fijian music are all part of the social fabric and are predominantly indigenous. Perhaps the most complex form of Fijian music is the meke in which voices and dance are combined. Different types of meke include the war dance, men's club dance, men's spear dance, as well as the men's or women's fan dance, women's standing dance and the sitting dance performed by men or women. All these meke are group dancers in which the overall appearance and group co-ordination are important. Men's dance movements are vigorous and virile while women's are controlled and graceful with lots of hand and body movements.
Methods of composition in Fiji vary greatly. Some music is composed in much the same way as western music. Composition in the traditional manner, however, follows certain ritual patterns. Only the dau ni vucu, who follow a priest like ritual are entitled to compose. The dau ni vucu, is the most important man in a meke. He is responsible for all aspects of the meke - music, poetry, dance, accompanying instruments and costumes - and for teaching all aspects of the meke.
The Fijian music featured on Pacific Islands Radio features traditional singing accompanied by lali and derua, clap sticks and the clapping of hollowed hands as well as occasional ukuleles. The music represents a mix of war songs, spear dances and some of the very gentle female meke, depicting ancient stories and folk songs.
In addition, Pacific Islands Radio also features the beautiful harmonies and rhythms of contemporary music from Fiji in which the traditional music is given a refreshing and modern stylistic presentation.
Pacific Islands Radio Stations