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Facts about Polynesian Music

Twinkling guitars and grass skirts aptly describe the music of Polynesia. For some important and interesting facts about Polynesian music, read on.
Manali Oak
I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality. - H.A. Overstreet, author and social psychologist
Music is truly the universal language. All the shades of different emotions can be expressed through music; be it joy or sorrow; hope or despair. Music can say it all, and in a way that appeals to every soul. You do not need to understand the technical nuances of music to be able to enjoy it. You do not need to learn music to derive divine pleasure from listening to it. Music binds together distant cultures and unites minds.
Music varies across different regions around the world. With changing cultures and varying traditions across the globe, tastes for music change. Perhaps, the difference in the ways of life across different cultures, have led to the emergence of different genres of music. Here is an overview of the Polynesian style of music which is special in its own way.
Polynesian music is described as a form of music that originated from the various islands of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, the word, 'Polynesia' is derived from the Greek word meaning 'many islands'. And Polynesia is a group of island chains across the Pacific. It includes Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island, along with many other territories.
This diversity also characterizes Polynesian music. Each of the small islands forming Polynesia has a musical style of its own. Some enjoy the soothing island music, while others derive pleasure from cheerful rhythms.
The music of Polynesia can be traced back to many centuries that witnessed the creation and spread of several cultures and civilizations. Polynesian music of the early days consisted of chant songs and vocal music composed of elaborate melodies. The chant songs were an integral part of the ancient culture of the Polynesians.
Many of the traditional Polynesian songs are a portrayal of the Polynesian culture and folklore. Hawaiian Hula is a dance accompanied by chant songs. This dance form was developed by Polynesians inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands.
When American and European missionaries migrated to Polynesia, they brought along, a distinct type of music called hymns. Hymns consist of melodies sung in different voice parts. They have deeply impacted Polynesian music. The East Asians have also influenced this music to a considerable extent.
The Christian influence on Polynesian music cannot be ignored. Christian missionaries who came to Polynesia in the 1790s, brought with them, hymns and other forms of Christian music. It resulted in the merging of Polynesian polyphonic singing with Church singing, which is today, an important part of their music.
In the traditional music of Polynesia, lyrics are of prime importance. Dance, melody, rhythm, and harmony are important accompaniments, but secondary to words. The Polynesians believe that rhythm and harmony serve as decorations to the lyrics, but it is the words of a song that form the core of music.
Polynesian dances that accompany their music, focus on the words in a song. They do not narrate a song to the audiences, but draw the attention of the audiences towards specific words in their songs. Polynesian dances mainly consist of hand movements and some of them are even performed in a seated position.
Hand gestures and hip movements are commonly used to illustrate melodies in Polynesian music. Beats in the music are emphasized by clapping of hands and stamping of feet. Polynesian dancers wear colorful dresses and watching them enjoy their music is a pleasurable experience.
Guitar, slit-drum, gourds, bamboo nose flute, Jew's harp, rattles, conch shells, shell trumpet, and tapping sticks are some of the important instruments used in the music of Polynesia. The use of clapping and knee-slapping is also popular. Pandanus is used as a percussion instrument in Polynesian music.
Modern Polynesian music is referred to as 'nesian'. Their traditional music has come down along generations and is nonetheless popular among the masses. Youths in Polynesia enjoy popular music. Today, Polynesia boasts of a flourishing cassette and music industry. Recent years have witnessed the rise of some versatile and talented musicians, who have earned world acclaim.