Some of you that are new to this blog may not know that I promote art, culture and heritage from Papua New Guinea, my country of origin and the Melanesian region. Music plays a large role in the Melanesian content that I promote. It was one of the reasons I started this blog two years ago. It is very important for me to continue to share and persevere in promoting as a way of safeguarding some of the Melanesian cultures, and I hope that you enjoy this journey with me, not only for its purpose, but the beautiful sounds.
The spectacular playing of stamping tubes by the ‘Are’are people is one of the twenty musical genres filmed by Hugo Zemp. This YouTube preview presents six short excerpts of a 2h20 long film in which each musical genre, one more beautiful than the other, is shown in length and commented by master musician ‘Irisipau. The 2-DVD set allows discovery and appreciation of the extraordinary richness of musical invention and polyphonic splendor of only 8000 ‘Are’are people living in the Solomon Islands, South-Western Pacific.
The clash of religion and culture – the fight that almost brought the House down How many times do we hear about religion and culture clashing?Does someone’s personal belief make it right for them to destroy a nation’s heritage? Religion versus culture and vice versa is a topic that often raises concerns around the world. In 2013, I remember protesting against the destruction of 19 cultural objects in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) national parliament house on Facebook, with many others. Our National Speaker who comes from Morobe Province, decided that he did not want the 19 statues that represented the provinces to be in the chamber. He ordered the removal and destruction of the statues, build with the house by the first prime minister, Sir Michael Somare.
Ryan Shram write this very interesting article about the incident and discusses the argument about religion and culture in the material world. Ryan goes even deeper into the history of the house and the country. Click here to read this story. While I am a christian, I treasure the beliefs and good traditions of my ancestors in Melanesia, and especially in PNG. My grandmother was a great believer of both – you learnt the christian ways and you also use your traditions because that is what your identity is. Your heritage is also one that has given birth to you and there are so many great things you can learn from your culture through your beliefs, foods, celebrations, rituals and many more. It is not easy to separate yourself from your culture and your heritage – unless you choose to. Traditional medicine healed Melanesians and other indigenous people before European medicine came. The rituals and spiritual practices provided – food, water and shelter and created sharing, love and healing in a community that was balanced with nature. All the practices were connected to and derived from nature and the environment. There are traditions in Melanesian heritage that are not good. These include sorcery and witchcraft, confusion between what is an ailment and what is a spiritual curse, the Big Man syndrome (the act of thinking you are wealthier and better with more status so you could manipulate and have several wives). The treatment of women and girls as second class is another Melanesian culture I detest. What are your experiences of your culture and religions – please share your comments here.
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.
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.
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.
The tema or kapkap are flat, round breast plates or disks made and worn as men’s chest or forehead ornament in the Solomon Islands. Tema is one of my favourite ornaments from the Melanesian region.
I particularly like the tema because of its spiritual meaning, its stunning appearance and temas take a long time to make, by hand. A A tema in the Melanesian culture is regarded as a spiritual object. They are worn as a protective shield during tribal warfare and for general well-being. The white part of the tema represents the moon. It is made from the giant clam shell. In the Santa Crus Islands, the traditional symbol of the frigate bird, shark or dolphin is intricately carved out of the turtle shell and embedded or attached to the clam shell base. The brown necklace is made from bark and bush ropes.