A History of Samoan Music

Samoa is an independent island nation in the Pacific with a population of about 190,000 people. The nation has a very rich Polynesian island culture and music and dance are very much part of the Samoan identity.

Samoan music is largely traditional, but this island nation has developed with the times and some of its artists have produced and released contemporary music that has made it into the mainstream music charts, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.

Traditional Instruments

Samoan music instruments include a rolled up wicker style mat that is used as a sort of drum when it is beaten with sticks to create rhythm which is called a fala. Stretched strings are also pulled and tied to a tether to create a type of xylophone. Harps, pan pipes and a bizarre flute type instrument which is played nasally is also used in creating music. One of the most iconic Samoan musical instruments is the sea conch, which is basically a large shell used to blow out horn sounds.

Dance is a very important element to Samoan music and different groups within a village will often try and outdo each other to put on the best show. These ‘dance offs’ are very popular with tourists.

Modern music

Modern music in Samoa is mostly linked to pop, rock, dub and some elements of US hip-hop. Many artists have abandoned traditional styles, but some are bringing it back and incorporating it into their modern style. This is happening with reggae in particular, which has a similar sound to traditional Samoan music. Religious music and choirs are also very popular in Samoa and their unique style of Gospel music has catapulted them into international recognition.

Many Samoan communities that emigrated have found musical fame in countries such as New Zealand and the United States, mostly with their interpretation of Hip Hop.

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