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Rhythm A Day Blog for March 5, 2020: Custom Chief's Day, Vanuatu

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Custom Chief's Day, Vanuatu

Vanuatu is an Island Nation composed of 83 islands. Many of these have rejected French and British Colonial influences, preferring to live according to their traditional customs. Common among the islands' lifestyles are village-based life, subsistence farming, a spirituality including belief in the efficacy of magic, and rule by tribal chiefs or Jifs.

Vanuatu Chief

Vanuatu Chief 
(Photo: Graham Crumb/Creative Commons

So although the government is a constitution-based parliamentary democracy, it created Malvatu Mauri, a National Council of Chiefs who advise the government, and work to ensure the preservation of traditional ways of life including indigenous languages and cultures, through Vanuatu. These tribal chiefs are honored on March 5 of each year, which is a public holiday. Celebratory activities on this day include sporting events, carnivals, agricultural fairs, and arts festivals. The Council does not hold legislative power, but its advice is valued.

Custom Chief’s Day is celebrated with lavish feasting, cultural shows, and sports activities and matches. Public entertainment including carnivals and performances of traditional music are common. There are many styles of music in Vanuatu: slit or log drums, bamboo pipes, and many more.


Pan pipe player.
(Photo: Graham Crumb/Creative Commons

One of the coolest forms of percussion in Vanuatu is the water drumming practiced by the women. Check out this mad PHATT cool video showing the hand techniques and the sounds achieved in this style of play!

And here is an example of water drumming:

 We are going to practice two different patterns from this drumming along with the closing pattern used to end a song.

Today's Video Lesson

 Landing page image: Vanuatu Slit drums.
(Photo by Cangadoba/Wikimedia Commons)

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