Researching pre-colonial Fijian instruments in the Fiji National Museum

Pacific Blue Foundation

www.pacificbluefoundation.org

Pacific Blue Foundation

Rediscovering Pre-Colonial Fijian Music

In pre-colonial Fiji, communities depended on oral and musical traditions to transmit valuable communal knowledge. This knowledge includes not only the history of the community but information about the values and social practices of the community. There are many ways in which this knowledge was passed down; one primary mode of transmission was through music. Music in pre-colonial Fiji was a fundamental aspect of village life. As many of these musical traditions were directly associated with pre-colonial pagan rituals and beliefs, the early missionaries worked diligently to censor which practices would be allowed in the newly developing Christian nation. Many practices were deemed unfit and the practice of these oral traditions began to change. Now, many of these traditions have all but disappeared, and those that have remained survive in altered states, with an imminent threat of extinction. Refinements in the educational system bring young students into the cities and away from their villages before their elders have had the opportunity to transmit this knowledge to them. The introduction of capitalism into the Fijian society urges youth to remain in the cities rather then returning home. Interest in Western culture and ideals overshadows traditional ways, and threatens the survival of these oral and musical traditions.

In 2009, Stephen Solook and I teamed up with the Pacific Blue Foundation for a special project in the Fiji Islands. The mission of the Pacific Blue Foundation is to work with the people of the Fiji Islands, to help preserve and promote the biological and cultural diversity of the region. Together we hope to identify and revitalize these threatened musical traditions. With the help of the Fiji Museum, the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, the Fiji National Archives,the University of South Pacific, Fiji National University, the University of Hawaii Manoa, and the University of California San Diego, we have begun our introductory research. Focusing on original texts from trading expeditions, missionary travels, and reports of early colonization, along with more recent academic writings by ethnographers, anthropologists, scientists, artists, and educators, we have begun to piece together a profile of pre-colonial musical traditions of Fiji.