By | January 2, 2023

Oceania Music and Dance

In Oceania, music and dance constitute an integrated art form, performed by singing or playing groups dancing at the same time. Vocal music is more common than instrumental music; however, slit drums of hollowed-out tree trunks and conch trumpets are widespread.

In Polynesia, vocal music and dance are based on poetry composed and choreographed by especially knowledgeable people. At public events, dance dances are performed, which praise chiefs and pay homage to their lineage, stories are told through song poems with recitation, mass and speech singing, while hand and arm movements illustrate particular words; only men run and jump. Traditional polyphony (among other things based on bordun) is common, except in New Zealand’s Maori, who sing unanimously on a few notes. On the large islands, several instruments such as cylindrical drums and the famous nose whistles occur.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Offers an alphabetical list of independent nations and dependent territories in Oceania. Also includes area and population for each Australian country.

Micronesia’s music and dance were used in tattoo rituals, which have now almost ceased. Here, too, the poems are crucial, and hand and arm movements adorn the story abstractly instead of illustrating it. The sea is an important theme and stick dancing is typical.

In Melanesia, music is used during ceremonies at rites of passage, secret societies, the inauguration of large clefts, etc. The instruments that are of greater importance here include whistles, pan flutes, rattles and hourglass-shaped drums. In larger rituals, the instruments illuminate voices from supernatural beings, who are also personified with masks, costumes, and ceremonial ornaments worn on the arms, while resilient movements with legs and body carry the rhythmic pulse. The melody is most often pentatonic or consists of three notes at a third distance (such as CEG) in addition to other types. In Papua New Guinea, music and dance are predominantly collective with responsorial singing.

In the Solomon Islands, pan flute groups play and dance composed pieces of music that illustrate the sounds of nature and human phenomena. The song is improvised and polyphonic.

The presence of Western culture on the major Polynesian islands since the 1800’s. has meant the introduction of ukulele and of hymn singing in choral style. The Tahitian heavens combine Polynesian and European elements. Western-influenced popular music was initially Hawaiian style, since pan-Polynesian pop (around World War II), followed by the Melanesian contribution of Pan-Pacific Pop. The Fenua Band (Tahiti and Hawaii) and the Apiti Band (Cook Islands) are current groups in the 1990’s.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia, Nouvelle-Calédonie, French overseas territory in the southwestern Pacific. The territory includes the island of New Caledonia (Grande Terre), the smaller archipelagos Loyalty and Chesterfield Islands, Île des Pins and several small islands; a total of 18,575 km2, 230,800 residents (2004). Hovedby: Noumea.

New Caledonia is one of the last real colonies of the world and in many ways an anachronism. Here, exclusive French ways of life are found side by side with the original Kanak culture, and the area is one of very few that receives official support for independence efforts under the official auspices of the UN. Locally, the independence movement is led by the Front de libération nationale, kanake et socialiste, FLNKS.

43% of the population are Canaanites, the native Melanesians; 37% are white, mainly French, 8% are immigrants from Wallis and Futuna, while the rest come from Vietnam, Indonesia and Polynesia. Most of the residents are Christians, predominantly Roman Catholic.

New Caledonia’s economy is broadly based with a significant agricultural sector (copra, coffee, local food, cattle and sheep farming), forestry, fishing and some tourism, but the background to the continued French interest is especially the significant mineral deposits, including some of the world’s largest nickel reserves. Nickel production is the world’s third largest (after Canada and Russia); the ore is processed at large smelters on the island and exported. Iron and manganese are also mined and exported as ore.

Since the 1960’s, while the rest of the world’s colonies became independent, New Caledonia has received significant immigration of whites. Many of them are Frenchmen from former French colonies, who here have been able to continue their colonial lifestyle in a corner of the world where development has not gone so fast. Along the way, there have been many riots with militant kanak groups, but a large contingent of the French military has so far been able to defend the interests of the white minority.


The island of New Caledonia is formed as a fragment of the Indo-Australian Continental Plate, which was separated from Australia by plate tectonic movements for approximately 65 million years ago. It is located in a zone where subduction occurs towards the Pacific plate, whereby very strongly folded and metamorphosed rocks have formed. In a late phase of the shear are ultramafic, ie. olivine- and pyroxene-rich, rocks from the Pacific plate shot up over the folded rocks. The ultramafic rocks covers about 1/3 of the island and are rich in various heavy metals such as nickel, chromium and cobalt. New Caledonia is surrounded by the world’s second longest barrier reef (after the Great Barrier Reef). The other islands are formed as ridges on ancient volcanic island arches.


The official language is French. The indigenous people speak Melanesian languages, of which the following have the status of regional languages : drehu (approximately 11,000), nengone (approximately 7000) in the Loyalty Islands, and paicî (approximately 6000) and ajië (approximately 4000) in New Caledonia itself. Immigrants speak Javanese, Vietnamese and Polynesian languages, especially Welsh and Tahitian. See also oceanic languages.


Austronesian-speaking people settled in New Caledonia before 1000 BC, but possibly Papuans came to the area many thousands of years earlier. Only a few centuries before the arrival of Europeans in the 1700’s. Polynesian people took possession of the Loyalty Islands. The indigenous people, the Canaks, were organized into clans that were part of autonomous tribes that differed linguistically. Yams played a central role both as food and culturally, and the spirits of the ancestors were cultivated with the chiefs as the connecting link.

When James Cook was the first European to arrive in the islands in 1774, there were more than 70,000 canons. Pga. the forested mountains he named the country after Scotland (lat. Caledonia). In 1853, France annexed New Caledonia and from 1864 used the area as a deportation site for many thousands of convicts. At the same time, a large-scale mining of nickel was put into system while the canaks were referred to reserves. Many canaks died during repeated uprisings, due to illness or during military service in the French army during World War I; in 1921 there were only 27,100 canaks. During World War II, New Caledonia was a base for American troops, and in 1946 the islands became a French overseas territory, where the Canaanites gained French civil rights. But the unrest and violence continued between canons demanding independence and immigrants from France and their descendants, as well as immigrants from the Pacific region, who want continued affiliation with France. Following the unrest in 1988, it was agreed to hold a referendum under UN surveillance in 1998, which saw an overwhelming majority in favor of secession from France over a 20-year period. Unrest in 1988 led to a degree of autonomy in 1998, and a referendum on independence is to be held after 2014.