Pacific Ocean Societies

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In the Pacific Islands, resources were scarce and affected music. How and why did this affect their music?

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The major way in which Pacific islands’ limited resources affected their music was by making that music more likely to be based on vocals and percussion rather than on any other instruments.  This was in part because people on these islands did not have as much access to the sorts of technology and materials needed to make more complicated instruments like violins and guitars and pianos.

An example of this can be seen in the music of Hawaii.  Ancient Hawaiian music was mainly chanted and accompanied by various simple percussion instruments.  The simplest of these instruments were rocks to be clicked together (‘ili ‘ili) while the hardest to make was a drum made from a palm trunk and covered with a sharkskin head (pahu).  It was not until Western contact that instruments that we associate with Hawaii, such as the ukulele, were introduced to the islands.

These same characteristics can be seen on other Pacific islands.  Music is vocal and accompanied by percussion because there are very few other kinds of instruments available due to the scarcity of resources. 

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