The traditional music of Tahiti utilised a limited range of  musical instruments which were primarily percussion instruments used to  mark the tempo of the vibrant Tahiti song and dance forms.

The instruments used comprised mainly:

The "vivo" or nasal flūte with four holes which is no longer widely used.

The "pu" or marine conch pierced with one hole towards the point, sends out powerful sounds and was used by the warriors when at sea.

The "pahu" (which once described all drums) is a wooden drum (in uru, ati or vi wood) with a membrane traditionally in shark skin and now mostly in calf skin, tightened by strings, wood sticks and rings.

The "to'ere", the Polynesian percussion by excellence and originally from the Cook Islands, is a drum with a slit, without membrane, artfully cut from a wood piece with the length and the proportion have an influence on the final sound. The small to'ere is laid vertically and is played with one stick.
The big to'ere is laid horizontally (on 2 support boards) and is played with two sticks. The sound becomes drier and sharper the more the to'ere is hit towards the extremities.

The "
tari parau" which is a section of the big drum and has two membranes. It is not rare to see materials such as plastic or metal being used in the construction of this drum.

Finally, as well as the percussion and wind instruments, there are also the ukulele and guitar which came from the Hawaii Islands at the beginning of the 20th century.



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Traditional dance to the accompaniment of drums

Despite the contemporary music of Tahiti often being strongly inspired by foreign influences, the traditional music and instruments of Tahiti still retain their popularity. The Polynesian remains quite attached to the old-fashioned charm of romantic songs that speak of love, sun and fresh water. Many and various concerts still attract big crowds, even among those who like more modern music. The pleasure of dancing organised on weekends remains popular with the entire population and often go on until dawn.

The traditional music and dance of Tahiti are very much being kept alive by such talented groups as LES GRANDS BALLETS DE TAHITI, a group which is very proudly featured on Pacific Islands Radio. Les Grands Ballets De Tahiti are a professional dance troupe who gives the Tahitian Islands a most sought-out and innovative image. Their dances, rhythms, music and songs, carry the spirit between traditional and contemporary. Founded in its current form in 1998, the Les Grands Ballets De Tahiti troupe renewed Polynesian music with a great respect for tradition while at the same time breathing in a certain modernism.

The objective of the troupe is to give an International dimension to the performing arts of Tahiti to a worldwide audience. They have already performed in the United States and Japan and, in addition, many other countries have had the chance to experience their dynamic and exciting art form. 

The music of Les Grands Ballets De Tahiti can be obtained from Kingmusic at http://www.kingmusic.co.nz

Vintage postcards featuring the use of
traditional drums to support Tahiti dance

Tahiti Postcards and Picture Galleries

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 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 5th April 2012)
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