Samoan Musicology Forum Part Of Samoana Jazz And Arts Festival

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Cultural events take place in Pago Pago and Apia

By Lance Polu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Oct. 30, 2014) – Old Samoan songs, chants, children’s lullabies and stories (fagogo) dating back to the mid 1800’s will become part of the inaugural Samoan Musicology Forum that kicks off in American Samoa this weekend and ends in Apia on Friday 7 November.

The inaugural forum will feature respected ethnomusicologist Professor Richard Moyle who will discuss his findings of old Samoan music from 10 years of extensive field work and research.

An Honorary Research Professor, Moyle is the former Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies and a graduate of The University of Auckland. He came to Pacific Studies after 22 years in the Department of Anthropology. For 17 years Richard was also Director of the Archive of Maori and Pacific Music.

He held teaching positions at Indiana University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and for eight years was a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra.

His research career spans 45 years, including 10 years of fieldwork in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, the northern Cook Islands, Central Australia, and Takuu.

In Apia this week, Professor Moyle met with His Highness the Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, himself a scholar of Samoan oratory and traditional studies and knowledge.

"The power of the uttered word, whether whispered, spoken or sung, is a way to contact the spirits," said Professor Moyle.

"Singing is refined and sophisticated and high valued compared to speech and elevates the performers to a higher level," he said.

He said there are old songs to stop the rain and change the weather and songs to the sick.

Often overlooked are children’s songs and rhymes such as Ai Sakea "which prepare children to sing together, listen to a leader and prepare to follow as a norm in society."

In his field research, he made recordings of 600 old Samoan songs and chants, lullabies, and stories – fagogos and songs from significant periods of Samoan history such as the colonial era and the Mau independence movement.

Fagogos teach moral lessons to children and these stories are often told and listened to in a group. "You know you’re safe with people – usually family around you," he says.

Given the emotive and expressive power of music, Professor Moyle says that old songs can be compared to a peoples’ home and the lyrics are a window to look through and see how they think.

"It’s why that past is important for the people’s current existence and future. It’s a dimension of our past that is very much a part of our present," he says.

"Musicology is not a museum that is static. It’s a living museum if you like."

While copies of his work were made available to Samoan radio stations, some 600 old Samoan songs he recorded will soon be online to give wider access especially to young people.

The Samoan Musicology Forum will be convened in American Samoa this Friday by Samoan academic Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin in collaboration with the Department of Education.

The Forum in Apia will be held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel Friday 7 November supported by the Ministry of Education and the National University of Samoa as a start to the Samoan leg of the Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival 2014.

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