Meke I (Songs composed for traditional itaukei dance)

Meke, a type of traditional Fijian dance, is the repository of iTaukei oral culture and served as a unifying factor in Fijian society before the arrival of Christianity. The musical form of meke is a Fijian polyphony composed around tonal center. It has short intervals and comprises seconds (major and minor), thirds (major), fourths, and occasionally fifths. The melodic movement is small and mostly stepwise with the laga (principal line) in the middle. The laga is the lead singer of the meke and sets the tempo and pitch. Above the laga is the tagica (meaning “to chime in”) and below is the druku (bass). There are duet riffs involving the laga and tagica sung in a close polyphony of seconds, thirds, occasionally fourths, and unison. The chorus involves all the singers and is usually in a block choral pattern. There may be two more parts: vakasalavoavoa (a descant), the highest part, sung above the tagica; and the vaqiqivatu (tenor part), weaving a polyphonic line between the bass and the laga and providing harmonic interest without being integral to the whole. There are meke for every occasion. Some are regional and some are collective, from those sung within the family and extended groups to the very large and impressive dance meke involving hundreds of participants. All of them form the Fijian musical canon together with instruments such as lali (large slit drums), lali ni meke (small lali for meke), derua (bamboo stamping tubes), and cobo (clapping with cupped hands). There are other instruments such as the davui (end-blown triton shell) and the dulali (nose flute), but these instruments are not included in meke performance. The actual singing of meke involved a number of performers: men, women, and children in any combination, sitting in a tight circle around the leaders. Texts of meke are arranged in stanzas and composed in an indigenous, oral poetic style. There are no limits to the number or the length of the stanzas; rhythm and rhyme are paramount.


Information source
iTaukei Institute of Language & Culture (TILC)

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