Much of the traditional music of Palau resembles many of the styles of the broader Micronesian musical traditions. Now, a lot of those traditions have been mixed with popular music from the US, Europe, and Japan.
In Palau, musicians divide their music into two categories: traditional style (chelitakl rechuodel) and modern music (beches chelitakl). The most important style of music here is chanting. Chanting is rife with meaning and serves as a means of communication. The text used is an extremely important part of traditional music. Some of these chants go back many, many generations, and some people may not even understand what the chant actually means anymore. There are different kinds of chants for different purposes, and it’s said that the gods were the ones who originally came up with this. However, as Western music spread its way across the island, traditional music has fell to the wayside a bit.
Besides voices used in singing and chanting, hand claps and body slaps are common percussive instruments to accompany their vocal music. As far as other instruments used, Palauan music also uses a variety of wooden flutes (one of the main ones is called a ngaok). Modern music uses instruments that were introduced to the Palauans such as the harmonica, guitars, mandolins, keyboards and other modern instruments.
Harmonicas were often used in the music of a dance called the matamatong. This dance gives the impression that it’s based on marching steps, perhaps from the German soldiers who occupied the islands for a time. There are many other dances, many of which tell stories and share similarities with other Micronesian traditions.
The early days of pop music was influenced by Japan, dating back to the days when Japan occupied the country. However, because of its ties to the US, American music is quite popular here. Styles that are typically American, like country music, are liked and emulated by many Palauan musicians. There aren’t that many examples of Palauan musicians, but I find a couple mentioned. The first one I listened to was Kendall Titiml. He’s probably the most well known because he’s one of the top producers and musicians in Palau. His music is kind of a mix of pop and reggae. I really kind of liked his music. He had a few songs that I could see me playing out loud in the car.
There were only a couple of other musicians I listened to. Malo’s music still had a pop-reggae feel to it, but I think he leaned more toward pop. A little. Maybe. I also listened to a song or two by Kelau Remeliik. I thought her style was very similar to Malo’s style. She has a full-bodied voice and her emotion comes through when she sings.
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