Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Carpe Diem #1508 Easter Island's music of the Rapa Nui

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Do you know Easter Island? That island with its hundreds of stone carved heads on pedastals? Welcome at the penultimate episode of this wonderful month in which we were on a journey around the world on a quest for folkmusic.

I am intrigued by Easter Island and its inhabitants that are Polynesian by origine, but have created their own culture on Easter Island. I love to tell you a little bit more about Easter Island's inhabitants, the Rapa Nui (people).

Easter Island
The Rapa Nui are the aboriginal Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the descendants of the original people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) make up about 60% of the current Rapa Nui population and have a significant portion of their population residing in mainland Chile. They speak both the traditional Rapa Nui language and the primary language of Chile, Spanish. At the 2002 census there were 3,304 island inhabitants—almost all living in the village of Hanga Roa. Hanga Roa is the main town, harbour and capital of Easter Island, a province of Chile. It is located in the southern part of the island's west coast, in the lowlands between the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau.

Hanga Roa Harbour
What kind of music they have on Easter Island? Are their songs all about Easter? Or are their songs more Polynesian of nature. Let us explore that a little bit.

The music of Easter Island has a most distinctive Tahitian influence and comprises traditional singing and chanting. In this sense, every family forms a choir. Each of these groups views in imagination with the others in relating the life of the community and thus perpetuating the memory of the Rongorongo. In the past, these groups had come together each year to take part in the contest. Supposedly judged in an unbiased manner, the contest results in disputations and quarrels which can go on until the following year and the next contest.

In the early days, these groups were accompanied by the conch-shell trumpet with rhythm being provided by a dancer leaping on a thin stone slab set over a pit containing a large calabash resonator. It is also believed that in the early days stone castanets were also used. Unfortunately, none of these instruments remain in use today and singers are now accompanied by guitars. In common with other Polynesians, the traditional music also forms the basis for the dance.

Traditional Easter Island Dance (Rapanookee vona)

Contemporary Easter Island music tells stories about the arrival and departure of loved ones, the story of the new bride which praises marriage, the villages, the sunrise and the wind blowing on the island. There are also songs which are concerned with the past, the Rongorongo tradition which traces the history of the family from the very earliest times along with the song of the moai sculptures in which the rhythm is provided by the striking together of two stones, representing the sound of the sculptors of the giant statues at work in the quarries.

What a wonderful story this was. It felt almost as being there on that strange Easter Island with those nice Moai  statues. A mysterious island, but the music of this island is really gorgeous and I hoe you will like it as much as I did.

Well ... did you like the song? Did the music inspire you? It inspired me ...

Rapa Nui
mysterious land of the Moai
a new day rises

© Chèvrefeuille (experimental)

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until September 5th at noon (CEST). I will try to publish our last episode of this month later on.

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