Tongan Music: Peace Corp Volunteer in Tonga


Well the only word I have for the music here is random. Yes there is a rich traditional culture of music. I truly enjoy Polynesian music and it’s reminiscence of the calm island lifestyle. However this is still 2007 and there are definitely influences from other genres of music.

I guess the reason I think the music is so random is because in my culture music is usually separated neatly by radio stations. If you want to listen to R&B then you turn to that station. Then the mood strikes to listen to oldies, there is a station for that too. If you turned on the classic rock station and they played big band, listeners would probably check the dial, seeing it was right then they may call in and ask what is going on? Not that big band is bad, just that is not what was expected from that station which claimed to play only classic rock. There are mixed stations but again the claim is out there as to what they will play (Wrox playing hits from the 80’s 90’s and today).

Then there is the idea of mixing songs. My understanding of this is finding tracks that have, or work well with the same beat and as one ends keep the beat going so you can “mix in” the next song, or part of a song. Fine not my personal favorite, but I can dig it. So the difference I have seen (or heard) is that there is really no separation of genre. You could hear a traditional Tongan song, then oldies, then R&B, then a show tune. That is not uncommon.

Careful what you joke about, you may hear that horrible best forgotten song next on the radio. I bought a Grease shirt just before I left. Now I like Grease as much as the next girl I guess, but it is not on my must see again list by any means. Well what a manifestation that was “You’re the one that I want” by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta, very popular here, I hear it all the time!

I was out with my host sister and Alicia and we heard “Rivers of Babylon” Great I love that song. Bob Marley is a good staple all over the world. Note the tempo and beat (slow and reggae). Then I heard the scratching, they are mixing it with… what is it… any guesses, pick something random! Yes that is it. Rivers of Babylon mixed with Who let the dogs out!

Wow I guess I have heard it all. But no there is more, my ultimate favorite random mix. I was listening to the radio and a slow quiet song came on, I knew it, but couldn’t place it at first:

Lets start from the very beginning

a very good place to start (what is it? It is older, maybe from a movie)

when you read you begin with ABC when you sing you begin with (really? Sound of Music? That’s right!)

Do Re Me. Wow so I pointed out to my teacher how random it is to hear Do a deer on the radio and he laughed. Then I kid you not, the scratching started and it was mixed with My Humps (I really don’t like this song and why is it so popular all over the world?) But that is not all, then that was mixed with a Samoan song. Now I have heard this mix several times so Do a deer, My humps and Samoan music, three of the most random not mixable (in my mind) songs together. Shows me what I know about music and what goes together.

I guess the moral of the story is go with it. Whatever comes on, best to have fun with it. There really is not a whole lot of stuff to do here. Coming from America where over stimulation is our middle name this can throw you off for a minute, but there is fun stuff just go with it and enjoy what is there. Don’t be the one to miss out doing the Hokey Pokey when it is on, you don’t know when your next chance will be, and hey That’s What It’s All About!