Polynesian music is a fun and vibrant musical style originating from the Polynesian islands of the South Pacific. The sounds of this ancient culture have begun to find their way into modern music, reflected by the tiki craze of the 1950s and 1960s and even in today’s pop culture. Even the Beastie Boys have sampled traditional Polynesian music in their songs. In Polynesia, Western-style music, instruments, and rhythms have made an impact on the traditional songs found here.
Polynesia actually comprises thousands of islands spread across the South Pacific Ocean. Each island is home to its own cultures, traditions, and music. In general, the most important part of Polynesian music is the lyrics. These lyrics often tell a story of daily life or the mythology of the islands. The instruments behind these lyrics are simple, but the sounds emanating from them beautifully. Among the variety of instruments found in traditional Polynesian music are slit drums made from logs, as well as nose flutes, a tiny style of the flute. These instruments are often accompanied by hand clapping to keep the rhythm and flow going.
Among the most well-known of traditional Polynesian music, styles are the Hawaiian Hula. This form of music has been passed down through generations as a central aspect of Hawaiian culture. This traditional folk music tends to be religious and incorporates chants from the audience. Along with the music are the traditional hula dancers, whose swaying hips and hand movements tell a story set to song. Today, hula music still functions to communicate mythology, religion, and history. Although simple in melody and rhythm, hula music contains complex and poetic verses.
Considered Hawaiian folk music, today’s hula musicians often incorporate modern hip-hop and pop sounds in combination with traditional lyrics. There are also many artists preserving Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage through song. The Hawaiian hula is known for the steel guitar and is the music you’re most likely to hear if you attend a luau during your Hawaiian vacation.
These traditional musical sounds remained much the same for centuries, as most of the Polynesian islands were not visited by outsiders until at least the middle of the eighteenth century. Following European contact, they began to incorporate American, European, Asian, and South American beats. After the arrival of Christian missionaries, which began in the 1790s and continued for more than a century, hymns and other Christian musical styles were sung, and native musical styles were often driven underground, although they also merged with Christian styles to create new musical genres.
If you want the atmosphere of Polynesian music for your next party, consider Tiki music, which will instantly transport you to the relaxing feel of a tropical island. This music grew out of the tiki craze that began in the late 1940s, which also popularized other areas of Polynesian culture. When listening to this spinoff of Polynesian music, which has become known as “exotica lounge music,” you can picture yourself sitting on a beach, the waves gently lapping at the shore. This music combines traditional Polynesian sounds with music from other areas of the world, such as Latin rhythms and tribal beats, as well as nature sounds like bird calls, resulting in an unusual musical blend.