Friday, April 20, 2018


While much of their traditional music is similar to other South Pacific musical styles, Samoan music has some key differences. One of the most noticeable parts of their music is the use of percussion instruments. There are several types of drums that are commonly used in Samoan music. Slit drums have been used in the islands for over a thousand years in a number of situations. These drums are often used as a means to signal over the water, for announcing village meetings, and as an accompaniment for songs, chants, and dances.


One of the largest drums is called the logo. It’s played by hitting it from the side with a beater and was often used for important events and announcements. The lali drum is a set of two drums and is always played by two drummers. One drummer plays the larger one while the other drummer plays the smaller one. It’s thought that the lali drums were introduced from Fiji. Other drums include the talipalau drum, which is like a medium-sized lali drum. The pate and nafa drums are types of smaller drums.

A few other instruments you’ll hear in Samoan music include singing, jaw harps, nose-blown flutes (I bet the inside of this instrument looks like a toddler’s sleeve), the panpipe, conch shells, and the fala (a rolled up mat that’s beaten with sticks).

After the British missionaries arrived, they introduced Western music to the Samoans. And they also brought along Western instruments with them as well, namely the guitar; the ukulele was introduced later on. Brass bands were also brought in toward the end of the 1800s. As US Marines moved into the area and radio had expanded their listening capabilities, American popular music infiltrated itself into Samoan music. There was a merge of cultures that included both instruments and musical styles.

Today, dance in Samoa is kind of a hybrid of modern dances (like hip-hop) and various traditional dances. Many of the traditional dances actually tell a story. A couple of these dances include the sasa (characterizing everyday tasks), the fa’ataupati (a slap dance), the manu siva tau (a war dance), and the taualunga (often considered the grand finale). The dancers will sometimes wear different accessories to accentuate the story.

I know there are probably tons of Samoan musicians out there, but this past week was so busy that I only had time to sample three. The first one I listened to was Pacific Soul. I can tell that they incorporate more of a traditional sound into their music; yet at the same time, they also have a soft rock sound and a reggae sound to them at times. One thing I noticed is that the vocals makes use of rich harmonies (especially in the background vocals). It seems that some songs are sung in Samoan and some are in English.

The Five Stars is another band that I listened to. These guys definitely have an island feel, and to be honest, it seems a little reminiscent of some Caribbean styles. I like it. I’m not a guitarist, so I don’t know the names of guitars (please help me out on this with more specific terms), but they use a higher-pitched pitched guitar that I always link with Afro-Caribbean and certain African styles of music.

Now I did come across one Samoan hip-hop group called Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. This definitely has a west coast American influence. I mean, I kind of liked what I heard. Sometimes I hear independent groups, and you can tell there’s it’s amateur: their flow is a little awkward, the mixing is really basic, etc. But these guys sound like they’ve been doing this for a minute. I can tell their influences are probably DMX, a little Cypress Hill, and maybe a little Tupac. OK, maybe just a little bit of everything.

Up next: the food

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