1937: Samoam Fiji dance and music on Naivukulani, Fiji

The taralala is an innovation. I was told that it originated in a simple little kindergarten dance in a mission school and spread, ere long, with great rapidity throughout the Group. There is now an endeavour to suppress it. In itself it is perfectly harmless, but the aftermath is not always without harm. In a large bure we were given an opportunity of seeing it.

Naivukulani Kingsford Smith dance: The young ladies from a neighbouring village, Naivukulani, gave first of all an excellent meke; the song accompanying it and the action told the story of Kingsford Smith’s plane crossing near their island on his famous trans-Pacific flight.

Samoan dance: This finished, two young men commenced a Samoan siva (dance) with much sinuous movement and whistling through the teeth. This fell very flat when it was seen that we did not feel it was worth while–after all it was not Fijian–and was followed by a change in tune; rattle, rattle, rattle, went the concert drums, hollowed pieces of hard wood shaped like a canoe, held on the crossed knees of one person and beaten with much skill by another; and the tune, which was almost to be identified with “Pollywolly Doodle” with barbaric effects, became louder and swifter as sung by a choir of men, women and children, while a kindergarten dance began, with partners side by side, one arm behind each other’s back. Dance after dance with changing partners followed; the same tune, now becoming monotonous, continued, with slight breaks for rest from time to time.

Faster and faster went the drums: …and the song and the dancing feet, hotter and hotter the room became with the mingled odours of perspiring oily bodies, the strong scent of the wild vines used in the necklets, and the smell of kerosene from the lamps, until at last we had to ask them to desist, and we retired for the night.

My next memory was to wake in the morning light to find a mother, whose husband apparently owned the bure we were occupying, dressing her little girl by my bedside.
Levuka Days of a Parson in Polynesia By C. W. Whonsbon-Aston London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1937.


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