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WATER MUSIC - Women stand waist deep in the Coral Sea while slapping and swirling the waters surface to create a rhythmic tapestry of aquatic percussion.

Observations of dance moves in the Republic of Vanuatu, South Pacific.

Women engage in the practice of water music by making sounds with the water through splashing, scooping, and slapping the water. Water music can be performed in an ocean, river, or natural spring. Water music is exclusively a women's practice by it is not ritualized. Although water music was a keystone of the Banganvanua Festival, water music is not associated with any formal ritual or ceremony, and it considered a taboo practice.

Water music was observed and practice almost daily during water collection and bath time. The fact that water music is not associated with any particular ritual or taboo makes it more accessible than many other cultural expressions in Vanuatu. The practice of water music has been handed down from generation to generation.


For the sugar cane dance the women began to approach the center of the village singing and dancing in an S shaped pattern. In route, one of the women handed out sugar cane the onlookers. The woman who was giving out sugar cane became tired from the journey and asked for water. One of the other women in the dance became irritated and in a fury, forced a rig of bamboo full of water onto the sugar cane giver. The irritated woman forced the sugar cane giver to drink all of the water, threatening to kill her if she failed to finish the water. The sugar cane giver was knocked down to the floor.

This dance is intended to ​demonstrate the importance of reciprocal sharing within the community. The moral of the dance: there would have been no animosity between the sugar cane giver and the water beholder had the sugar cane been met with equal gifts of food and water in her journey.

Wander Wisely,


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