Song Types

Introduction to Sikaiana Song Types

     I collected information about songs and music as a result of my primary interest in social organization and change on Sikaiana. *1      In many areas of Sikaiana social life, including music, indigneous traditions and practices have been discontinued, altered or replaced by exogenous institutions and practices.  Songs, especially composed songs, are an important medium for describing Sikaiana social relations and expressing their values.  This was true in traditional song compos­ition, and remains true in the contemporary songs that are composed to guitar music.  My interest in collecting data about traditional songs was also motivated by my belief that my stay on Sikaiana in 1980-1983 was a final opportunity to record, transcribe and translate many traditional songs known only to the oldest living people.  Finally, I collected songs for a personal reason.  As I learned more about Sikaiana language and culture, I came to enjoy many of the songs, and they became a meaningful and fulfilling part of my stay there.

Although interested in Sikaiana songs, I am not an ethno­musicologist and I did not focus my research on the musical life of Sikaiana.  I will not present an analysis of Sikaiana tunes. *2   This paper is pre­liminary; a full analysis of Sikaiana songs and music, especially genres, tunes and verse, requires the efforts of someone trained in ethno­musicology.  In this paper, I will outline the factors causing social change on Sikaiana, describe the vocabulary of music and songs, discuss the changing contexts and styles of song performance, and finally, list and describe the terms for song genres that I collected.  In another paper (Donner 1987), I intend to discuss in more detail the social significance of changing styles of song composition on Sikaiana.

The Cultural and Historical Context

Sikaiana is a Polynesian Outlier located about 100 miles east of Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands.  It shares many cultural traditions with nearby Polynesian islands including Ontong Java, Tuvalu (the Ellice Islands), Nukumanu, and Taumako.  There is also a notable Gilbertese influence dating from the late 19th century.  During my stay in 1980-1983, the atoll had a resident population that fluctuated between 200‑250 people; approximately 400‑500 other Sikaiana people have emigrated from Sikaiana to other parts of the Solomon Islands.  At present, Sikaiana is visited once a month by a boat.  It departs from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, circumvents the northern coast of Malaita and arrives on Sikaiana to drop-off and pick-up supplies and passengers.  Each way, the trip takes about 36 hours.

Although remote and geographically isolated, Sikaiana has a long experience of culture contact and change.  In the mid-19th century Sikaiana was visited by whalers and traders.  Manu­factured trade goods such as pots, pans, bush knives, flour, and cloth were integral in the local economy by 1900.  Sikaiana retained its traditional ritual system until 1929 when a group of Anglican missionaries arrived to convert the island.  Within the next decade, Sikaiana’s conversion to Christianity was rapid and virtually complete.  After 1929, culture change has been especially intensive.

At present, Western institu­tions such as a local church, school, court, government council, and cooperative store are well established on the atoll.  Many traditional rituals and practices have not been performed for over 40 years, and are only vaguely remember­ed.  Most Sikaiana people have attended schools in other parts of the Solomon Islands.  Some have secondary level educations, and a few have attended colleges and universities outside of the Solomon Islands.  Most people born after the island’s conversion have spent long periods living away from Sikaiana both in schools and in occupations.  Most Sikaiana people are fluent in Pidgin English, the lingua franca of the Solomon Islands, and many young men told me they feel more com­fortable conversing in it rather than the ver­nacular.

This changing social situation has an important impact on Sikaiana music.  In discussing the songs below, I use the term “traditional” to describe the non-western genres that existed before the arrival of the Christian missionaries in 1929.   Songs composed and performed after 1929 in these genres will also be labelled as “traditional”.  This use of the term “tradi­tional” belies Sikaiana’s complex history of interaction with neighboring islands and Europeans before 1929.  Songs and styles introduced after 1929 and ultimately derived from Western European culture, I will describe as “Western” or “Western derived”.  This latter term belies the fact that many of these genres have been transformed in the Southwest Pacific, in the Solomon Islands and on Sikaiana.


The Vocabulary of Music and Songs

The Sikaiana verb pese corresponds with oral performances described by the English verb, `sing’.  The word anu is both a noun and verb corresponding with the English term, `dance’.  All dances that I saw have some kind of musical or singing accompani­ment.  The word mako was used by older Sikaiana people to mean `songs with gestures or movements’.  At present, however, the term mako has been generalized to include all per­formances that are sung (pese), including songs without movements and those composed for the guitar.  (A traditional prayer form, the kai tae, were chanted or evoked using the verb lani, rather than the verb pese.)  Ako mako refers to each and all of the following aspects of song performance: composing, memorizing and singing.  In other contexts, ako means to `learn’ or to `teach’.   Aauna is the noun for the movements and gestures of actions that take place during a dance; the causative form, hakaauna means to practice, teach or make gestures.  (I collected only one term for a specific movement; hakapepele describes the motion of twisting and lowering the body from the knees, a frequent movement in the dances performed by young girls.)

At song festivals and dances, enthusiastic singing is described by the stative verb, too.  Before singing a song, people call out “hakatoo!” the causative form of tooAnumana is an organized dance.  At present these organized dances, most often for younger people and performed to the guitar, follow evening feasts or parties (kai).  Hakamolimoli describes the process of performing a dance in one neighborhood (kaaina) or location, and then moving to the next neighborhood or location to perform another dance.  In present day Sikaiana, this is done on festive occasions such as the Christmas holiday.

The most frequently used instruments are the drum (puloto), which is beaten during some traditional dances, and the guitar (kitaa), which is played by younger people.  The drums are made from large metal biscuit containers.  Guitars are all manufactured outside of the Solomon Islands, imported and sold in trade stores in Honiara.  Both the drum and guitar are `struck’ or `rung’ (lliki).  (Lliki means `to strike with a hand held object’, and also to `ring-up’ on the telephone.)  There are some ukeleles (ukalele), but the guitar is more popular.  The term pahu is mentioned as an instrument in one faery tale (tala).  Some informants said it was a Jew’s harp; others said it is a bamboo flute.  I never saw either played during my stay.  Sometimes a manufactured mouth organ (similar to ones I had as a child) was played to accompany English songs and guitar compositions.  A conch shell (puu) is blown (ili) on special occasions and for announcements.      Some Sikaiana song genres are composed, hatu (from PPN *fatu), including siva, sau, tuki, tani, olioli, saka, mako haka­tanitani and songs for the guitar (kitaa).  Most composed songs are attributed to a specific composer(s), describe specific individuals or events, often interpreting them in terms of Sikaiana values. *3  Composed songs often include metaphors or figurative speech, hulihulisala. (Huli means `to turn’; in this context, sala means `wrong’ or `different’.)  Some Sikaiana people explained the term hulihulisala by referring to the “parables” in the New Testament.  Sometimes, like the parables in the Bible,  hulihulisala is used to expand or intensify a composer’s meaning.  Hulihulisala is also used to disguise meanings in songs that describe illicit behavior such as adultery, or to disguise criticism of another person.  If the song is critical of someone, and its meanings understood, then those being criticized often will compose a reply (sui, literally `exchange, trade’, or hakappili, literally `to answer back’.)

Other song genres are not associated with any particular composer.  These include genres with ritual significance including kai tae, and suamele, or sungs that originated in other islands, such as mako o te henua.  Some songs associated with ritual ceremonies, such as tuki and kai tae hakatele, contain words whose meanings were known only to tradi­tional ritual leaders and are no longer understood by living Sikaiana people.*4  The mako o te henua have been learned from neighboring islands, and although the words are recognizably Polynesian, they are not always under­stood.  Several Gilbertese songs are sung on Sikaiana, notably the kalana and the mau tolotolo.

In traditional song composition, different types of verses are named: mua, akoako, liaki, tutalua, tualua, hhati, haopuku, puku. *5  It is not neccesary to have all these types of verses in a song.  An akoako and several puku provide the central structure for many songs.  (In other usages, ako means to `teach’ or `learn’, akoako often means to `practice’; puku is a mound.)  The akoako introduces the theme of the song and is repeated throughout the song.  The puku are the different verses of a song which are not repeated.  Thus, a song begins with an akoako, followed by the first puku, then the singers repeat the akoako and sing the second pukuMua (literally `before’) occurs before the akoako and is sung at the very beginning of a song.  But unlike the akoako, it is not repeated again.  In some songs, there is a hhati (literally `split’) that follows the akoako and a liaki (literally `scatter’) that follows the hhati.  The haopuku (hhao means `to pack into’) precedes the puku.  In some songs, the different puku consist of only a single word or short phrase, and the haopuku is the unchanging verse that encompasses each puku.  Some songs have a second verse similar to the akoako, called tualua.  The tualua is similar in structure to the akoako but different in content.  (Lua also means “two.”)  The first time that a tualua is sung, it is preceded by a tutalua that is not sung when the tualua is repeated.  The structure of the tualua and tutalua parallels the structure of the akoako and mua.


Culture Change and the Contemporary Contexts for Songs

Sikaiana culture has changed dramatically over the past 50 years and these changes have affected songs and music.  In traditional Sikaiana society, songs were an integral part of sacred events, special ceremonies, and informal entertainment.  After the island’s conversion to Christianity in the 1930s, traditional rituals and ceremonies were replaced by Christian rituals and ceremonies.

During one traditional ceremony, the puina, men and women divided into separate groups to compose songs that criticized the opposite sex, or taunted a spouse by praising a secret adulterous relationship.  During the period that songs were being composed, one group went to the western islets (Muli Akau) while the other group stayed on the main islet (Hale).  Upon rejoining on the main island, each sex presented their songs to the opposite sex.  A similar ceremony, hakatoo pakupaku was performed on main islet without going to Muli Akau.  The Christian missionaries discouraged the puina because the ceremony praised adultery and caused hostil­ity.  A modified form of the puina, the uiki hakamalooloo was performed during school holidays in the 1940s, the (vacation or rest week’).  In recent years, there have been very few performances of this ceremony.  One was performed in 1969 to commemorate the American landing on the moon.  Two have been performed since then, including during my stay in 1981.      Because many people have spent long periods away from Sikaiana, they are not familiar with traditional music.  Mature young males prefer performance styles ultimately derived from exogenous musical styles, including songs composed to the guitar, folk and rock music heard on the radio, and a modified form of Western style intersexual dancing.

Most spontaneous performances of traditional songs occur when people have been drinking fermented toddy (kaleve) or other alcoholic beverages.  At these times, people told me that the traditional songs are sung “inaccurately” or in an abbreviated form.  There are other occasions for the performance of traditional songs, often they involve rehearsals and occur when traditional Sikaiana culture is being displayed for an important visitor to the island.

Young girls often rehearse dances theat are performed at special feasts or at the visit of an important official.  I was told that many of these dances are not indigenous to Sikaiana, rather they were learned from other Polynesian islands.  A Gilbertese woman married to a Sikaiana man occasion­ally organized rehearsals and presentations of dances that I assumed to be from the Gilberts (Kiribati) or the Gilbertese communities in the Solomon Islands (not to be confused with the late 19th century Gilbertese immigrants to Sikaiana).

The performance of traditional songs intensifies from November through early January, which is a festive season on Sikaiana.  A week in November is spent celebrating St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Sikaiana church.  Two consecutive weeks are spent celebrating Christmas and New Years.  During these weeks, people are prohibited by the church from most work activities and are expected to participate in celebrations including dancing, singing and drinking.

When I first arrived on Sikaiana in November 1980, the island’s males gathered together to practice tradi­tional dances for the coming holiday season.  Older men organized these sessions expressing the fear that Sikaiana traditions were being forgotten and supplanted by guitar music and Western dancing.  (My arrival and interest in traditional culture may have been another stimulus.) Although many young men participated in these sessions, they preferred to play the guitar or listen to tape recorders when they had a choice.

In November 1981, partly at my initiative, the men and women of the island divided into separate groups to perform a modified puina, without isolating themselves at each end of the atoll.  Most of the island’s population participated in this event, and it was a frequent topic of conversation and interaction for several weeks.

Traditional songs are rehearsed as part of special presenta­tions, such as the arrival of an important visitor (the Bishop of Malaita visits every year on St. Andrew’s Day).  In early 1982, the Sikaiana people prepared for the arrival of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands by rehearsing several traditional songs, including the kai tae hakatele, some suamele and mako o te henua.

Traditional dances are also performed during the exchanges (penupenu) that accompany a marriage.  Goods are exchanged between the families of the mothers of the bride and groom, and between the families of the fathers of the bride and groom.  When each family makes its presentation, they engage in traditional dances to the drum (puloto).  Occasionally, these dances are performed following a feast or party.

Finally, traditional songs and dances are performed at the instigation of anthropologists.  Hugo Zemp recorded some Sikaiana songs at Red Beach prior to my arrival in the Solomon Islands.  Several times, groups gathered together and rehearsed traditional songs to be recorded by myself as part of my ethnographic research.

As mentioned above, the spontaneous performance of traditional songs is most frequent when people are drinking alcoholic beverages and men prefer to be at least slightly inebriated when performing.  People claimed, however, that as recently as 20 years ago, Sikaiana people celebrated festivals by dancing and singing for long hours into the evening without alcoholic stimulation.  At present, drinking is an integral part of most festive celebrations.

The Sikaiana women are more active participants than the men in performances the island’s traditonal songs and dances.  Perhaps because their opportunities for drinking are restricted, they are more enthusiastic participants when they sober.  For example, during festive weeks people move from neighborhood (kaaina) to neighborhood putting on per­formances.  Most often, these groups consist of women.  In the 1981 puina, the women’s presentation of their songs was better organized than the men’s.

Women are more active participants in the rehearsals and present­ations for important visitors to the island.


New Songs amd Music on Sikaiana

It is increasingly difficult for the Sikaiana people to sing and compose in the traditional styles.  However, several popular musical styles have been introduced in the past 50 years.  At church services, people sing English hymns from an English (Anglican) hymnal, and children sing Sunday School songs.  (There are church hymns written in the vernacular, but, perhaps due to inaccurate translations, they are rarely sung.)  Sikaiana men have learned a variety of American and English songs which they sing when drinking, including “You Are My Sunshine,” “Pack up your Troubles,” “The United States Marines Marching Song,” and “There is a Church in the Valley.”

The guitar (kitaa) was introduced onto Sikaiana in the late 1960s, and during my stay was a very popular expressive form for unmarried young men (tama­taane) and women (tamaahine).  This music is considered to be appropriate for unmarried people, usually interest decreases when a person becomes married.  Guitar songs are composed in the Sikaiana language and, as in traditional composition, often use metaphors (hulihulisala) to intensify meanings or disguise criticisms and secrets.  These songs are played at dances between young men and women, which occur as frequently as several times a month.  This intersexual dancing, termed hula, was introduced onto Sikaiana in the 1970s.  In traditional society, men and women did not dance in this fashion.  Sikaiana parents often complained that guitar music and dancing was respons­ible for immoral sexual behavior and the break down of some Sikaiana traditions.  Following my arrival in 1980, there was a controversy on Sikaiana between dancing forms.  After a feast, there was a short period of traditional dancing to the drum.  But older people claimed that in a short time younger men forced them out by playing guitar music to start intersexual dancing.

Although guitar music is not traditional and often uses western tunes, it is indigenous in many respects.  The choice of the vernacular for composition is not insign­ificant.  Many of the young men who compose and sing the songs claim that they are more fluent in Pidgin English than the vernacular.  In describing specific events in the vernacular, guitar songs represent a music style that is oriented to the Sikaiana community.  Moreover, Western rock and folk music is available on tapes, but they were not played at organized dances.

Young men prefer to perform guitar music when they have been drinking, although sometimes they sing sober.  Young women, whose drinking is curtailed by local regulations and convention, enjoy singing to the guitar when the sober.  Several times during my stay groups of young people recorded guitar songs on cassettes and sent them to Sikaiana relatives and friends in other parts of the Solomon Islands.

Finally, tape recorders and radios are ubiquitous on Sikaiana.  People listen to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting System (SIBC) which has programing that includes relatively contemporary Western rock and folk music.  People also play this music on tape cassettes.

Song Genres

The following list of terms defines the song names and genres that I collected during my stay on Sikaiana.  In collecting data about these terms, I relied on my informant’s definitions of these song genres.  I have not done an independent analysis of tunes or verse style.  Several genres are archaic and informants differed in describing genres.  I have included song types about which I have limited information in a separate section following the list below.


KAI TAE are ritual prayers that were sung to specific spirits (aitu, tupua).  (Kai means `eat’; tae means `shit’.)  Unlike the other performances listed in this paper, the verb pese is not used to describe the performance of a kai tae.  Instead, the verb lani is used: lani tona kai tae, `chant his prayer’.  The teika lle is a ceremony performed when a large fish or whale was found beached on the reef. As the fish was being taken ashore, kai tae were sung to the various spirits (tupua) who were believed to inhabit different locations of the reef.  Kai tae were also sung in the island’s central ritual house (hale aitu).  Some kai tae still remembered.



KAI TAE HAKATELE is a specific traditional prayer that was sung as part of the manea, a ceremony performed when the central ritual house (hale aitu) was rebuilt.  The etymology of kai tae was explained above; hakatele means to `make run or flow’.  This prayer is quite long and has several different sections.  During my stay in 1982, many of the island’s older people gathered together to rehearse a performance of this prayer for the visit of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.  After disagreements about its proper wording, a form was agreed upon, rehearsed, and performed.  (My recollection is that the term pese was used to describe the performance of this form rather than lani, see kai tae).  The words and their meanings are obscure.  I was told that only the ritual leaders understood them. Listen to the kai tae hakatele.


KALANA is a specific song with dance actions that depicts combat.  This song was brought to Sikaiana by refugees from the Gilbert Islands in the 19th century.  The kalana is rarely performed at present, and does not seem to be widely known.


MAKO HAKATAHAO were sung for amusement.  The ones that I heard were very repetitious and seem to have little meaning.  Hakatahao means `to make play.’  At present, these songs are sung very rarely.


MAKO HAKATANITANI are traditional love songs; hakatanitani literally means `to make cry.’  I do not know whether or not this term refers to a genre of songs with a distinct verse and tune style, or whether it refers to the content of songs with different verse and tune styles.


MAKO O TE HENUA literally means `songs of the land (or island)’. They are a large number of songs with movements that originated in other islands.  In some songs, the words are Polynesian but not always Sikaiana.  In other songs, the words could be Sikaiana but the meanings seem obscure or very simplistic.  The oldest living women during my stay, Fane Telena, remembers learning and singing these songs on informal occasions in the evenings with her foster father when she was a young girl.  Fane was probably born about 1900.  These are still performed on festive occasions including the arrival of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands to Sikaiana.
Listen to a mako o te henua; 3 more


MAU TOLOTOLO is the name of a specific song that was brought to Sikaiana by Gilbertese refugees in the late 19th century.  It is performed as part of a ceremony involving fosterage.  People gather in secret and go to the house of someone who has a foster child.  They sing the mau tolotolo as they approach.  If they sing the song “correctly” (since it is in Gilbertese, it is difficult), they may demand labor or material goods from the foster parents.  The foster parents are obliged to meet these demands in order to prove their love for their foster child.  I heard that one had been performed recently before my arrival.  I saw one performance during my stay, but the performers did not sing the song accurately.


NAHA are songs that recount events that occurred during a legendary invasion of people from Tona.  In legend, this event took place about 12 generations ago and resulted in a massacre of the Sikaiana people.  The Sikaiana associate these invaders with the island of Tonga, but tona also means `south’ in many Polynesian languages.  I collected very few naha, although it is possible that they are still sung, especially when older people are drinking. Listen to a naha.


OLIOLI is a genre of composed (hatu) songs with a different tune and verse style(s) from sau, siva, and saka. It is performed without dance motions.  OLI means `to swing back and forth’.  They were performed at the puina and on other secular occasions.  Like siva and sau, at present, they are composed rarely and sung occasionally when people have been drinking. (Listen to an olioli.)


SAKA is a genre of composed (hatu) songs that are lascivious and praise a secret sweetheart or lover (hina).  They have the same tune as a tani.  After their arrival in 1929, the missionaries discouraged the composition and performance of these songs.  Saka are still known and performed occasionally, especially when people are drinking. Due to their ribald content, they should not be performed in mixed company, especially in the presence of true or classificatory cross-sex siblings (kave).  So far as I know, none were composed during my stay. (Listen to a Saka, song 5); (listen to another Saka, song 6).


SAU are a genre of composed (hatu) songs with a tune and verse style that was described to me as similar to, but slower than, sivaSau were often composed during the puina, introducing a theme that was elaborated in several sivaSau are still sung, especially when people are drinking, and are composed occasion­ally such as the song feast in 1981 described earlier. Listen to a Sau.


SIVA are a genre of composed (hatu) songs with a tune and verse style that is similar to the sau.  At the puina, a sau introduced a theme that was elaborated in several siva.  At present, siva are still sung when people are drinking or during rare performances of the puina.  On those rare occasions when people compose in tradi­tional style, my impression is that they prefer to compose siva rather than sau, because siva are faster paced.
Listen to a Siva; listen to another Siva.


SUAMELE are songs with dance actions.  The words of the suamele are archaic and not fully under­stood.  (I was able to obtain a plausible translation for one suamele from an intelligent man familiar with other Polynesian languages)  In traditional society, the suamele were performed towards the end of the teika lle, a ceremony performed when a large fish washed ashore on the reef.  Men and women broke into separate groups along the shore, faced each other, and then did a series of suamele at different locations along the shore (hakamoli­moli).  At present, suamele are still known and performed at holiday festivals, the arrival of an important visitor, or other special occasions.
Listen to a suamele.


TANI were funeral dirges or laments composed at the death of person by his/her relatives in order to commemorate important events in that person’s life.  Tani are no longer being composed but some are still known.  At present, there are a few tani that seem to be especially popular, usually they are sung when people are drinking. Listen to a tani.


TTANI KKAI are short parts in faery tales (tala) that are sung. Sometimes the tune of a ttani kkai is used for another song. Listen to a ttani kkai; listen to another ttani kkai.


TAU were sung in ritual houses (hale henua) at a special ceremony called the kunaaika.  This ceremony is no longer performed, and I do not fully understand its significance.  I was unable to collect a tau during my stay.


TUUHOE were associated with long distance voyaging (holau).  Tuu means `to stand’; `hoe’ is the word for paddle.  There are two tuuhoe, associated with two legendary heros, Semalu and Kaetekita who are reported to have travelled long distances in outrigger canoes about 12 generations ago.  Parts of these songs are sung when people are drinking; an entire performance of both tuuhoe can be obtained with rehearsals.


TUKI are composed (hatu) songs that had ritual significance in traditional Sikaiana society.  They were sung in the ritual houses (hale henua) and by mediums to summon their ancestral spirits (aitu mate).  I was able to collect several during my stay, although informants disagreed about whether some should be called kupu or tuki.
Listen to a tuki; listen to another tuki.



I have very limited information about the following songs.

 AASI is the Mota term for `hymn’.  Mota was the offical language of the Anglican missionaries in the Solomon Islands until the late 1930s and many elder Sikaiana people learned Mota in mission schools.  I didn’t hear this term used often.

HAKATELETELE VAKA is a song (or song style) sung to commemorate long distance voyaguing (holau) and as a ritual aid for men who were engaged in this pursuit.  Hakatele means to `make run, sail or flow’; is an `outrigger canoe’.  I have one example of this form.  One informant claimed that the example I collected was actually a kupu associated with Savaiki, one of the ritual houses (hale henua).

KUPU  are ritual prayers associated with the ritual houses (hale henua).  Informants differed about whether certain songs should be called “tuki” or “kupu”.  As discussed above the vaka hakateletele was described by another informant as a kupu.

MAKO MAHAMAHA are sung during the teika lle ceremony which is performed when a large fish or whale is beached on the reef.  The word tau is used to describe the act of performing these.  I was able to collect several.

OLITANA.  This term was collected late in my stay from an elderly informant who claimed it was a type of prayer to control the weather.

SEA, in my understanding, is not a song genre but rather one particular song that was learned from the Ontong Java people.


Songs and music are an integral part of Sikaiana social life, and changes in social life are reflected in the musical styles.  There has been a “recontextual­ization” of many traditional song genres.  (See Barrere, Pukui and Kelly 1980 for an example of this process from Hawaii).  Songs that were integral parts of rituals and ceremonies in traditional Sikaiana society are rehearsed and presented to outside visitors (and anthro­pologists) as repre­sentative of Sikaiana traditional culture or kastam (a borrowing from the English word “custom”).  On informal occasions, drinking alcoholic beverages has become a frequent context for musical performances.

New musical styles have been incorporated into Sikaiana society.  In secular contexts, the guitar music and intersexual dancing have been accepted with enthusiasm by younger people.  The music composed to the guitar represents the integration of an exogenous musical style with an indigenous style.  Many tunes are often derived from Western songs, but the composition is in the vernacular, builds upon an indigneous style of metaphorical expression (hulihuli­sala), and often describes specific events and individuals in terms of indigenous values.  Although guitar music is a viable expressive form among young people, Western folk and rock music may become increasing­ly important for the Sikaiana people.




1.  I spent 33 months among the Sikaiana people, mostly on Sikaiana and in Honiara.  Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation, and material costs for a lexicon of the Sikaiana language was provided by the Australian Cultural Preservation Fund.

2.  I did not collect specific data about several important contexts for singing.  For example, I never studied the hymns sung in church.  I did not keep notes of the songs that people sung when they were drinking, nor did I study the dances frequently rehearsed and performed by the young girls as part of feasts and presentations for important visitors.  I recorded many songs, usually after rehearsals by the Sikaiana people.  With the help of informants, I transcribed the words of these songs and translated them.  I have no transcrip­tions of tunes.  I did make a systematic effort to get information about the terminology of songs and musical styles.

There are several times when I did extensive recording of songs.  In mid-1981 several older people born before World War II rehearsed and performed some traditional songs that were composed in their life­times.  In November and December of 1981, I participated in sessions when men gathered together to compose songs as part of a modified puina.  On Easter 1982, I sponsored a rehearsed performance of traditional songs by the islands’ older women.  I also made several recordings of traditional songs at various other times under informal circum­stances. For data about traditional song composition, I am especially indebted to Reuben Tenai, Dr. John Kilatu, and Fane Telena, among others.      Beginning in March and April of 1981, I began collecting transcrip­tions of words, translations, explanations and recordings of songs composed for the guitar.  This effort continued throughout my stay.  I did not analize the tunes.  For this data, I am indebted to Duke Laupa and Frank Saovete among others.

3.   The Sikaiana pronoun system marks the relation­ship between the composer of the song and the person the song is about.    Sikaiana has two classes of personal pronouns, an `o’ class and an `a’ class (in other Polynesian languages these are often described as “dominant” and “subordinate” or “inalienable” and “alienable”.)  The “o” class of personal pronouns mark possession of body parts, social relationships and part-whole relationships (e.g. the walls of a house); the “a” class marks possession of material objects (tools, food, etc).  A composer refers to a song he/she has written with the “a” form (tana mako) and the person for whom the song was composed (whether the song is compli­mentary or critical) with the “o” form (tona mako).

4. In other contexts, ritual language often was obscure or un­intellig­ible.  During spirit possession, the familiar spoke in an un­intelligible language that had to be interpreted.  At present, although many Sikaiana people are not completely fluent English, church services are conducted in English, although they may understand the parts of the liturgy that are being performed.

5.   This system of verse terms was given to me for the composition of sau and siva.  My notes indicate these terms also apply to the verses of saka, tuki, tani, and tuuhoe, but not to olioli, mako o te henua and kai tae.  I never heard these terms used for songs composed for the guitar.  These terms were collected without detailed analysis of specific songs, and these definitions must be considered tentative.



Barrere, Dorothy, Mary Kawena Pukui and Marion Kelly

1980      The Hula: Historical Perspectives. Pacific Anthropological Records No. 30               Honolulu: Bishop Museum

Donner, William

1998      Sikaiana Songs. Entry in Adrienne L. Kaeppler and Jacob W. Love, editors, The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 9Australia and the Pacific. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

1992   The Same Old Song but with a Different Meaning’: Expressive Culture in Sikaiana Ethnic and Community Identity. Pacific Studies 15(4): 67-82. Special issue, The Arts and Politics, Karen Nero, Guest Editor.

1987          “Don’t Shoot the Guitar Player”: Tradition, Assimilation and Change in Sikaiana Song Composition.  Journal of the Polynesian Society 96: 201-221.