Tahitian Dance Competition - Drumming and Music

Tahitian Drumming and Music

Tahitian drumming is one of the things that makes Tahitian otea dancing so compelling: The syncopated rhythms are irresistible.Click here to learn more about Tahitian drums (the web movie may take a few minutes to download).

Heitiare Pane'e, PCC Tahiti Islands Cultural Specialist, explains Tahitians use several types of drums in their traditional dancing, including:

To'ere — the hard wooden drums ranging from 2-6 feet long with a hollowed slit. These are played with thick wooden drumsticks. Must drumming groups usually have at least three to'ere.
Fa'atete — a snare drum, sometimes played with the hands, or drumsticks
Pahu arata'i — a bass drum that provides the leading beat. In ancient times this would have been made out of a section of log covered with sharkskin.
Pahu tupa'e — a hand drum, sometimes accompanied by a vivo or flute.


Pane'e adds that drummers have evolved a traditional style of playing called the orooro, a three- or four-part sound like an "echo, which is what the word means. Orooro creates the effect of an even bigger drumming sound, but there's also a danger," she says: "It's hard to hear the beat. A good drumming squad will know when to oro and when not to."

"The drumming also dictates the level of energy and stamina the dancers must demonstrate," Pane'e continues. "When it's very exciting, such as in the orooro, even average dancers do better."

She points out to keep the competition focused on the soloist competitors in Te Mahana Hiro'a O Tahiti, the PCC corps of drummers play for all the dancers, and that none of them have had the chance to hear or practice the drumming accompaniment before they are judged. "This requires their dancing to be even more skilled," Pane'e says.

For the aparima (or hula-like dances with hand motions), Pane'e says the musicians add guitars and the Tahitian-style ukulele, which they adapted from the famous Hawaiian instrument.

"The Tahitian ukulele, however, sounds more like a banjo," Pane'e says, "because the hole is in the back, and we also use 30-pound nylon fishing line for strings, which — along with our fast strumming — gives the instrument it's very robust sound."







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