The 2022 Pacific Connect Ideas Exchange saw the launch of an exciting new pack of over 150 Fijian music samples and original sounds for use by schools and media creators around the world.
The first sample pack ‘Sounds of Fiji’ was produced by a mixed team of young and established musicians after the 2021 Pacific Connect Music Dialogue to showcase the rich sonic tapestry of Fiji’s traditional music. At the Ideas Exchange, project leaders Fletcher Ehlers and Chris Mallam told over 60 participants that the pack’s instrumental, vocal and ambience samples would help increase the profile of Fijian music and preserve important cultural sounds.
As well as the evocative call of a Davui conch shell, pulsating beats played on a Lali drum and the joyful shouts of traditional dancing, the samples include atmospheric field recordings, from the rush of waves beating at the reef to bats screeching in the busy capital city. Fletcher and Chris stressed the collaborative and creative values underpinning the creation of the sample pack while discussing the beauty of Fijian music, which melds the percussion, songs and chants of ancient Polynesian and Melanesian traditions with more modern influences from church choirs and Indian Bhajans.
Communal songs, chants and vocal work still dominate Fijian music, with the words as important as the sound in conveying emotion and meaning. Groups of traditional Fijian singers create complex polyphonic effects through different layers of vocal sound, accompanied by the percussion of Cobo – clapping with cupped hands – and wooden stamping tubes.
Several types of slit drums – the Lali – are still used to communicate across long distances as well as in music, while nose flutes and panpipes sometimes offer melody. The Davui – conch shell – is played like a trumpet and remains one of the most important ceremonial instruments.
Fletcher said he hoped the pack would preserve the sounds of traditional instruments such as the Lali and Davui while educating people about Fijian culture and raising the profile of Pacific sounds and music worldwide. The bespoke field recordings capture the raw authenticity of traditional Fijian instruments, but the pack’s creators worked with production service LANDR to ensure that all recording artists will be recompensed if their work is used commercially. The sounds will also be shared freely with music students in Australia and the Pacific, and Chris has launched a record label to encourage the sample’s use in music schools, dance studios and creative collaborations.
The Fiji sample pack may lead to other packs showcasing sounds from across the Pacific, and creators and producers around the world may soon be using these notes, sounds and phrases in a new generation of songs.