Music has played an important part of Marshallese culture for centuries. Each island had its own set of songs, but one type of music that generally bound them all was a type of chant called roro. These chants were essentially sung to provide guidance and were sung for a variety of situations such as navigation and when a mother was going through labor. The lyrics varied by island, but the style was the more or less the same.
Although drums and other percussion instruments may not be as common on other Micronesian islands, drumming is an important part of Marshallese music. One type of drum that is especially used is an hourglass-shaped drum with a head only on one side. They also utilized different kinds of flutes and conch shells as well, not to mention simple clapping and knee/body slapping. Ukulele music is especially popular in the islands. Music of the Marshall Islands is very much vocal-based, like other Micronesian, Melanesian, and Polynesian traditions. As Europeans visited the islands, they introduced certain instruments like guitars as well as European musical forms and religious music.
The Marshallese also love dancing. One dance called the beet has its basis in early Spanish dances. In the beet dance, men and women stand in parallel lines and do a side-step, which creates a difficult, complex rhythm to the dance steps. The Jobwa perform a type of stick dance that is only performed for special occasions.
Bands today often utilize these ancient roro chants and other indigenous musical styles; they merged them with more modern instruments and traditions. There weren’t many bands I came across, but I did find a few on YouTube. One I came across is called Iroij Lablab Amata.Kabua. Their sound from the one song I heard is upbeat with a definite “island” sound to it. A few others I found in this quasi-reggae, quasi-pop, quasi-traditional category include Kili Excess, Alson Morris, Shirleyann Loeak, and Lamaran.
Another band I came across is called Lastevo. The one song I came across was kind of an electropop style song. I kind of liked it. They also listen to other popular bands that hail from other nearby Pacific Island countries.
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