Music of Tonga

The music of Tonga is the music, both indigenous and foreign-influenced, of the island kingdom of Tonga, comprising the Tongan archipelago and a few outlying islands.
Tonga was discovered by European explorers in 1616. Early visitors, such as Captain Cook in the 1770s, and William Mariner in the 1800s, describe traditional dance performances featuring singing and drumming. The first successful missionaries, English Methodists, arrived in 1822. By 1830, most of the population were nominally Christian. Western church music and Western classical and popular music would then start to mingle with the pure Tongan music, resulting in the often hybrid music of contemporary Tonga.
Traditional Music – Traditional music is preserved (though how faithfully we can only guess) in the set pieces performed at royal and noble weddings and funerals, and in the song sung during the traditional ceremony of apology, the lou-ifi.
Radio Tonga begins each day’s broadcast with a recording from Ve’ehala, a nobleman and celebrated virtuoso of the nose flute. The nose flute is otherwise rarely heard. Contemporary youth prefers the guitar.Some ancient dances are still performed, such as ula, ?otuhaka and me’etu’upaki.
Church music – Methodists were known for their extensive use of hymns in their emotional services. True to their tradition, the early missionaries introduced hymn-singing to their congregations. These early hymns – still sung today in some of the Methodist sects, such as the Free Church of Tonga and the Church of Tonga – have Tongan tunes and simple, short Tongan lyrics. All the Methodist churches have occasional choir exhibitions (po hiva), held in the larger churches, to which all the neighboring congregations are invited. Choirs practice assiduously to show off their prowess before their rivals. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus is frequently sung at these festivals, being esteemed as the epitome of choir display.
Secular music – Secular music is composed in a gamut of styles, ranging from the semi-traditional to the aggressively pop influenced by overseas styles. The usual instruments are voice, guitar, and sometimes the players from the church brass band. Hiva kakala (fragrant songs, meaning love poems) are an important part of the semi-traditional group.

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