Music of Tuvalu

Music of Tuvalu
A Tuvaluan dancer at Auckland's Pasifika festival

The traditional music of Tuvalu consists of a number of dances, most popularly including fatele, fakanau and fakaseasea,[1] and were used to celebrate leaders and other prominent individuals. The Tuvaluan style can be described "as a musical microcosm of Polynesia, where contemporary and older styles co-exist".[2]



Traditional music prior to European contact included poems performed in a sort of monotonal recitation, though this tradition has since become extinct,[3] as well as work songs which the women performed to encourage the men while they worked.

The most famous form of Tuvaluan dance music, fatele, is influenced by European melody and harmony [4] and is competitive, with each island divided into two sides.[5] Lyricism is an important part of the fatele tradition, which begins with the older men singing a song in a meeting hall (maneapa), then gradually repeating it louder and quicker as the others join in; they also use empty cabin cracker cans to play the rhythm [6] and a wooden box. Dancers enact the story being retold, and the music finally climaxes and ends abruptly.[7] This tradition is shared with the music of Tokelau.[8]

The two primary traditional dances of Tuvalu are the fakanau and fakaseasea. Of these, the fakanu has since died out, though the fakaseasea lives on, performed only by elders.[9] It is a slower song with very loose rules on how to dance to it. The fakanu was a rhythmic dance, performed by people standing on their feet, swaying their body.[10] The swaying was considered erotic by missionaries after the arrival of Europeans, and most traditional dancing was forbidden.[11] The ban came along with restrictions on religious activity, for the fakanau served a spiritual purpose as well. Both dances were used for celebrations and for praising fellow islanders.

Fakanaus use as a praise song was an important part of Tuvaluan culture. A composer of a praise song would practice with the performers beforehand, and tell the subject of the song so he would have time to gather gifts. After the first performance, the subject would give the gifts to the performers, and would often continue to do so after future performances as well.[12]

Tuvalu also had a tradition of funereal singing called kupu, which is similar to the fakaseasea.[13]



  1. ^ Linkels, pg. 221
  2. ^ Linkels, pg. 221
  3. ^ Linkels, pg. 221
  4. ^ Independent Online Edition
  5. ^ Linkels, pg. 221
  6. ^ Independent Online Edition
  7. ^ Linkels, pg. 221
  8. ^ Jane's Oceania Page
  9. ^ Jane's Oceania Page
  10. ^ Jane's Oceania Page
  11. ^ Jane's Oceania Page
  12. ^ Jane's Oceania Page

See also

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