Music in Kiribati has had some of the least Western influences in comparison to other countries around it. Therefore, folk music is still a pretty dominant form of musical entertainment for these islands. I-Kiribati utilizes both vocal and instrumental music in their folk music traditions.
As far as vocal music goes, vocal music and chanting especially is commonly used. Many of the lyrics revolve around love, weddings, religion, war, and patriotism as well as songs for children. Native instruments are made from materials that can be found on the island. Often they would use a various percussion instruments and even use themselves as percussion instruments in the form of body percussion (I wonder if it’s like beat boxing?). The British did introduce Western instruments while they were there, and today they do incorporate the guitar and other instruments into their music. Oftentimes, music and dance went hand in hand.
Dancing is extremely important to I-Kiribati people. From what I’ve read, it seems that dancing may be the one cultural art that single-handedly represents the people, the lifestyles, and their history. They are famous for their stick dances. These stick dances are often danced to songs that are based on semi-historical topics and legends. Other dances are often danced on top of a hollow wooden box that’s often used as an additional percussion instrument. A lot of dancing involves a lot of hip movements, often reminiscent of visuals of Hawaiian dancing.
Although there is quite a bit of information about traditional music available, there really isn’t that much out there about any contemporary musicians from Kiribati. For the first time since I started this blog, I don’t have any musicians to make a Spotify playlist for this country. I did manage to come across a few musicians who have some videos on YouTube. One musician I found is Bata Teinamati. He is thought by many to be an instrumental figure in shaping the music of Kiribati and promoting traditional music education. I listened to a couple of his songs, and the two I sampled seem to use synthesizers and have a general “island” feel to them but with elements that reminded me of old religious songs.
I also found a rapper who calls himself Bwenaman. I listened to a couple of his songs; he sings in a mix of Gilbertese and English. His songs, to me, are more of a mix of reggae and R&B, although he does have rapping in some of his songs (to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s him or the other featured musicians on the track, but I have a feeling it’s the others). His song “Shake It Girl” is pretty catchy if you like dancehall style reggae.
I’m sure there are other bands and musicians from Kiribati because I’ve found mentions and cameos in Google searches and YouTube. But there just really isn’t any commercialized music from Kiribati available from what I could find. There’s actually a British band I came across called Kiribati. They’re not bad, but not what I was looking for.
Up next: the food