Music of Melanesia

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Melanesian music refers to the various musical traditions found across the vast region of Melanesia.

Melanesia subregion of Oceania

Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from New Guinea island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji.


Vocal music is very common across Melanesia; sitting dances are also attested.[ citation needed ] Hand gestures are an important part of many songs, and most traditional music is dance music.

Dance music music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music. While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times, the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances. In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances. In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era. Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka, ecossaise, ballade and polonaise.

Wax cylinder recording from German New Guinea on August 23, 1904, recorded by German anthropologist Rudolf Pöch.

Folk instruments include various kinds of drums and slit-log gongs, flutes, panpipes, [1] stamping tubes, rattles, among others. [2] Occasionally, European guitars and ukuleles are also used. [3]

Gong East and South East Asian musical percussion instrument

A gong is an East and Southeast Asian musical percussion instrument that takes the form of a flat, circular metal disc which is hit with a mallet. The gong traces its roots back to the Bronze Age around 3500 BC. The term 'gong' traces its origins in Java and scientific and archaeological research has established that Burma, China, Java and Annam were the four main gong manufacturing centres of the ancient world. The gong later found its way into the Western World in the 18th century when it was also used in the percussion section of a Western-style symphony orchestra. A form of bronze cauldron gong known as a resting bell was widely used in ancient Greece and Rome, for instance in the famous Oracle of Dodona, where disc gongs were also used.

Bamboo musical instruments

Bamboo's natural hollow form makes it an obvious choice for many musical instruments, most commonly flutes.

Pan flute type of flute

The pan flutes are a group of musical instruments based on the principle of the closed tube, consisting of multiple pipes of gradually increasing length. Multiple varieties of pan flutes have long been popular as folk instruments. The pipes are typically made from bamboo, giant cane, or local reeds. Other materials include wood, plastic, metal and ivory.


  1. See Zemp (1979, 1994).
  2. See François & Stern (2013), p.76-86.
  3. See also Stern (2000).

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See also