Tag Archives: indigenous music

Tarika – Tracing Origins of Madagascar Music


Courtesy YouTube

The album Soul Makassar (released in 2001) by Madagascar’s Tarika was a special project where their leader Hanitra Rasoanaivo travelled to Sulawesi in Indonesia looking for the ancestral origins of the Malagasy people. It was recorded in London, Bandung and Jakarta with Indonesian musicians guesting.

From Hanitra’s album notes:

“I wrote this song on the second day after I arrived on the island of Sulawesi. From my hotel room window every evening I could see the red sun setting between the light blue sky and the dark blue sea. I was taken on an imaginary trip by the boat of Tanaberu called Amanangapa which supposedly left the south coast of Sulawesi to go to Madagascar. I saw the pinisi, the outrigger canoes crossing the sea in front of me. I felt like I had been taken back home after many years of being lost. I was in a new Antananarivo, an Antananarivo where there was nobody else but my own tribe. The Makassar people say that I am from the Takalar tribe! There was not even one vazaha (white person) in sight at that time. I felt at home.”

The Call of Garamut


The garamut is a slit gong made out of wood. The instrument is widely used in Melanesian cultures. Garamuts are used for traditional dancing and performances. It is also used to call and gather. Communities used the garamut to call meetings, call school children to classrooms and congregations to churches.

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Picture by Pioneer Bible Translators. Calling his congregation to church; one of the most common uses of garamuts.

In Papua New Guinea the instrument, depends on its size and how shallow the slit is, gives a distinctive sound. It can also be played very rhythmically and the sounds makes you want to dance.

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A garamut in Brooklyn Museum.

In the first video clip, I am delighted to show my own people dancing the siak, a slow motion dance in Salamaua, Morobe Province. A single and sometimes two garamuts would lead the siak accompanying kundu drums. Pay attention to the sound of the garamut – the largest wooden instrument in background.

The second video below is from Manus Province. For their performances, Manus dancing requires a collection of garamuts of various sizes and played together. The biggest drum (deepest) leads the rhythm and song.

Pidil: A Small but Powerful Instrument


Published on Sep 17, 2014 by komnairima

I love interesting sounds, particularly  unusual musical instruments from Papua New Guinea. Here is the Pidil, a rare instrument belonging to the Gunantuna of The Blanche Bay Area of New Britain. I have read that this instrument is played by men during ritual ceremonies to attract young women into the bush. We can guess what that means. 

I do not have any more information on the object except for the sound of it which is on the YouTube link below. The brown, almost finely polished seed, (it’s naturally like that), is common in PNG in coastal areas. In my province we remove the inside and hollow the seed before we use it as a decoration on string bags (bilum). We also  string a bunch of the seeds together to make it another musical instrument, that sounds like a shaker. The women and men carry the bunch and shake them to create the sounds that accompany the kundu drums, singing and dancing.

Rabaul is the famous centre of New Britain. It is known for the Japanese occupation during the world  war and also for its volcanoes. Since January 1942 the Japanese had held Rabaul on Blanche Bay, the flooded crater of an extinct volcano which gives deep water almost to the shore. The regional area and the province itself is rich in culture and heritage. The Pidil in New Britain has a longer story behind it. I dare not ask, I am a woman, but, someone from this area may offer us some follow-up story for this blog in the future. For now, click on the link to listen to its sound.

World Music – A tribute to Mama Yangyang


I love music from all over the world. Having grown up in a small fishing village outside Lae, Papua New Guinea, music and dance is part of our rhythmic flow of planting, gathering and harvesting for our families. Songs are composed in dreams. They talk about people, our ancestors, and our life.  Music and dance celebrates us as people. It creates and reassures us of our cultural identity.

From as early as three-years-old I had my own dancing costumes. I sang and danced We-e Si-ing, Bu-sim Awe-e, and Sabic. These are types of dancing. I was already learning to make my own costumes from leaves, shells and other natural materials. I was singing and dancing with my aunties. My aunty Yangyang, her nickname for “Yellow” because she was born with pale skin; was one of the best dancers and singers in our village.

My aunty Yellow died two weeks ago. I pay tribute to her and her amazing life which I was part of. Like most women in my family, she could take and master tasks meant for men as well as women. She was fit and strong and very hard-working. Mama Yangyang taught me so many skills; from fishing, gardening, crafting to dancing and singing.

My life is rich with knowledge and skills because Aunty ‘Yellow’, my mother, grandmother and many others have taught me so much about our culture.  These women gave me the fabric of my being and my passage which connects me to nature and the earth. Living in a western society is so different. It feels lonely and isolated sometimes. I miss those days when we all, three generation of girls and women, singing and dancing together.

In the past month, I have been taking two courses in the arts, one being World Music. World Music is a term which may evolve as time passes, but at the moment, it refers to music that is not western. The term “foreign” was used, but to me, western music is “foreign” so it just depends on who you are and how you look at it. World Music stirs a unique emotion in me. The music, whichever culture it comes from, reminds me of who I am and it connects me to my own people that I do not see often enough. All I need to do is close my eyes and I am there.

As past of daily rituals, people in many indigenous cultures sing and dance. This is such an uplifting and exhilarating part of life’s journey.

Here is a dedication to my Aunty Yellow and a small taster for those of you that do not know the African kora. In this clip the kora is being played by one few (rare) women players from Ghana, Sona Jobarteh. I hope you like her music.