Tuesday, 4 August 2009

You know you are in Vanuatu when........

.........you watch and listen to string bands....
A small Island in Vanuatu called Emau produces some of the best Vanuatu string bands. Watch at:


String Bands are popular in Vanuatu. Apart from String Bands in Emau island, you have several strings bands in almost all the villages in Vanuatu. The String Band style comes from Polynesia. It came to Vanuatu towards the end of World War II, when the archipelago was still jointly ruled by France and Britain (1906-1980).

The musicians play string instruments (box guitars, ukuleles, one-string bass (Babatoni)) and percussion (drums or tambourine). The songs are sung by a single person or by the whole band in chorus. The theme of their songs, range from politics, economic, social, and developmental aspects of life. The songs are in Bislama (the everyday language of Vanuatu), in English, French or one of the regional languages. It is now common to find Christian songs or international pieces especially I found Lucky Dube’s songs quite popular.

As you land at the airport in Port Vila, you will find the songs of the “Airport” string band quite refreshening after hours of flying.

When I visited a holiday resort in Efate (main island where you find Port Vila), I watched a 2-man string band. I failed to convince the man playing the babatoni that he can use his foot as well, rather than just using the hands (like late Michael Yekha). He laughed it off, I guess being less of a musician, I failed to use the right vocabulary for him to see sense. I nevertheless enjoyed the music though after listening to one, you have listened to all.

Interestingly, I never found a string band at any of the kava bars! I wonder.