Micronesian music in general is largely based on vocal music. And the music from Federated States of Micronesia encompasses much of these traditions as well. There are a number of other instruments utilized, but vocals seem to be the main part. A few of the traditional instruments heard in their music include the conch shell horns, sticks, and a few drum-like percussion instruments. But really, their vocal music is the dominating factor here, especially coming in the form of chants.
Much of their music is based on mythology and ancient rituals, so its no surprise an ancient myth says that music comes from trances and dreams rather than music theory and composition. Traditional music comes in a variety of styles, and because there isn’t a written language (they use Roman letters now, but originally there wasn’t), these traditions are passed down from generation to generation.
Although the islands on a whole share cultural ties, each island has their own variations when it comes to dancing. There are two main types of dances: standing dances and sitting dances. One of the variations these dances have are divided upon are who the performers are. Some islands have dances where men, women, and children all perform together, but others are only for men or only for women. Stick dances are an important part of Micronesian culture. They are especially popular on Chuuk, Yap, and Pohnpei. The island of Yap has a particularly strong dance heritage. One rare dance is the Moonlight Dance from the island of Chuuk. One reason it’s rare is that both men and women dance together, and it only happens during a full moon if the village chief gives permission to do so. It was used as a way for young people to meet. Apparently, it’s important to meet, but not that often. Like a staff meeting or paying bills or something.
There were a few bands I found on Spotify, but I found others on YouTube. With influences from European, Asian, and American music, much of their music today reflects these global changes on their music and culture. For one, they tend to use modern instruments and styles in their popular music. Styles like reggae, rock, and hip-hop have seeped into their musical styles, still maintaining a definite Micronesian flair. I did find several reggae artists on Spotify. I was never really sure if my searches were drawing artists from the Federated States of Micronesia or the region of Micronesia. Regardless, I tried my best and I’m sure they’re listened to in the FSM. The first one I listened to is Chiko. He sang in a mix of English and whatever his native language is. I kind of liked it, even though the quality of the recording wasn’t the greatest, which is kind of rare for Spotify. It sounded like the copies you sometimes got when CD burners were still new: that sort of buzzing, cracking, or popping that sometimes happened on top of the music when you burned CDs.
Another artist I liked was Ozeky. Apparently, he’s pretty popular, and I can see why. Most of his music was a chill reggae style of music. From what I can tell, he also switches between singing in English and singing in Chuukese.
The problem with some of these searches that I ran into, especially on Spotify, was that I wasn’t sure I was actually pulling up the right artists. I looked up a band called Vroom Vroom, but the music almost sounded like early MIDI files or music used in early video games. I mean, that could be how they actually sound. I don’t know. It could also be a bad cover of their music, or just some music from another group or album called Vroom Vroom. Who knows?
I also listened to a rapper called F.O.S. There were just singles listed on Spotify, but a few of them were hip-hop and a few were electronica. So, I’m not exactly sure what the deal is. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what I heard, but I questioned whether he does both styles or what exactly is going on here. It’s cool either way. Maybe I shouldn’t ask so many questions and just enjoy the music. But it does turn out that I think he's British, but I'm not sure if he has ties to the islands or not. Still, I like this song.
One band I came across that was mentioned over and over again on some forum asking about the top five Micronesian bands was ReChuuk. I found a bunch of videos on YouTube. They’re a little bit island reggae with a little bit of rock subtly mixed in at time. I’m guessing the language they sing in is Chuukese, just based on the name of the band.
Relinda is another Chuukese musician. Her music is steeped in reggae but has more of a pop sound. I also saw Danny mentioned as another favorite Chuukese musician. I’m sure there are many more musicians from FSM out there. These are a just a few.
Up next: the food!