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Savage Island: An Account of a Sojourn in Niue and Tonga

3. The "Lakalaka."

3. The "Lakalaka."

The only interesting feature in the Lakalaka lies in the fact that it is music composed by natives under the influence of European music. It shows little talent or invention, and its more ambitious melodies and crude harmonies, however spirited the performance, pall quite as quickly as the Otuhaka, which has at least a weird and striking character of its own. The composer of the Lakalaka is at once poet and dancing-master as well as composer. When the afflatus is upon him he retires to the bush, and returns with words, music, and appropriate gestures complete in his head, and an hour's practice suffices to make all the boys and girls in his village perfect in their parts. Finease Fuji was one of these, and his reputation ensured a public performance to all his compositions. Those that become popular may endure for many years. Langa fale kakala (build a house of flowers), for example, which is given below, is as popular a favourite now as it was when I was in Mua in 1886. The themes are boating songs, odes to Nature and to flowers, or laments, but never love-songs. I remember one very pathetic lamentation of a poet named Tubou, whose theme was a term of six months' hard labour awarded him for flirting; it attained immense popularity on account of its pathos; indeed, I think that the pathetic Lakalaka are the most enduring. Love-songs are called sipi, and they are never sung in page 227public, being rather in the nature of sonnets to my lady's eyebrow.

Like the Otuhaka, the Lakalaka is in two parts, though the voices may divide into four parts in the final chord. They are contrapuntal in form as well as harmonic, and they are accompanied with the same kind of gesture dance as the Otuhaka. The singers may either sit or stand in one or two rows; if they stand, the men go through a sort of dance, while the women move their heads and arms without changing their position. The difference between the two forms lies in the scale, for the Lakalaka makes use of our scale both major and minor, with the exception of the leading note, which is generally omitted; the melody is more sustained, and, no drum being used in accompaniment, the rhythm is less marked.

The European music which have been the foundation of the Lakalaka are Wesleyan hymns, military band marches, and Mozart's Twelfth Mass, which is very well done by the students of the Wesleyan College. Most of the educated natives can read very well in the tonic sol-fa notation, and they have now begun to compose a kind of choral anthem for themselves, which is very much like the Lakalaka without the gestures. They show a great aptitude for keeping their parts, even in complicated counterpoint. That they have a strong natural turn for music is certain; it is the exception to find a native without a voice and a correct ear, and if they lack originality themselves, they have at least a very quick appreciation. I have described elsewhere* how the Grand March from Tännhauser took them by storm when it was first performed, albeit imperfectly, by the king's band.

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Lakalaka.Allegro. by Finease Fuji of Mua.

Allegro. by Finease Fuji of Mua.