The Pacific: Entertainment

Entertainment

Considering the strong Aussie presence and the temperature, it's not surprising that the South Seas has its fair share of colorful bars where cold beer is consumed in amazing quantities. These are good places to meet local characters at happy hour, and some bars become discos later on.

Respectably attired visitors are welcome at the ex-colonial "clubs," where the beer prices are generally lower and the clientele more sedate. Barefoot (or flip-flop-shod) beachcombers in T-shirts and shorts may be refused entry, and you should take off your hat as you come in. Don't overlook the resort bars, where the swank surroundings cost only slightly more. Don't worry about the quality of the beer as it's excellent everywhere, in fact, Samoa's Vailima beer may be the region's best and Fiji Bitter is a close second.

Listings of authentic recordings you can order online are on Pacific Islands Music

Many big hotels run "island nights," or feasts where you get to taste the local food and see traditional dancing. If you don't wish to splurge on the meal it's sometimes possible to witness the spectacle from the bar for the price of a drink. These events are held weekly on certain days, so ask. On most islands Friday night is the time to let it all hang out; on Saturday many people are preparing for a family get-together or church on Sunday. Except in the French territories, everything grinds to a halt Saturday at midnight and Sunday is very quiet—a good day to go hiking or to the beach.

Music and Dance

Traditional music and dance is alive and well in the South Pacific, be it the exciting tamure dancing of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, the graceful siva of Samoa, the formalized meke of Fiji, or the kastom dances of Vanuatu. British ethnomusicologist David Fanshawe has suggested that the sitting dances common in Tonga, Fiji, and elsewhere may be related to the movements of the upper part of the body while paddling a canoe.

The slit-log gong (or lali in Fiji) beaten with a wooden stick is now a common instrument throughout Polynesia, even though the Eastern Polynesians originally had skin drums. The to'ere slit drum was only introduced to Tahiti from Western Polynesia after 1915, and it's marvelous the way the Tahitians have made it their own.

Melanesia has always excelled in the use of the flute, especially the panpipes of Solomon Islands. Flutes were known in Polynesia too, for example the nose flutes of Tonga and Tahiti. In the early 19th century, missionaries replaced the old chants of Polynesia with the harmonious gospel singing heard in the islands today, yet even the hymns were transformed into an original Oceanic medium. Contemporary Pacific music includes bamboo bands, brass bands, and localized Anglo-American pop. String bands have made European instruments such as the guitar and ukulele an integral part of Pacific music.

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Holidays and Festivals

The dates of the special events of each island group often vary from year to year, so it's good to contact the local tourist information office soon after your arrival to learn just what will be happening during your stay.

The Most Important Annual Festivals

Tapati Rapa Nui

Easter Island

late January or early February

Flag Day

American Samoa

April 17

Independence Celebrations

Apia

first week of June

Heilala Festival

Nuku'alofa

first week in July

Heiva i Tahiti

Papeete and Bora Bora

first two weeks of July

Independence Day

Solomon Islands

July 7

Independence Day

Port Vila

July 30

Constitution Celebrations

Rarotonga

early August

Hibiscus Festival

Suva

August

Bourail Agricultural Show

New Caledonia

mid-August

Constitution Celebrations

Niue

mid-October


For more detailed listings, turn to our Calendar of Events.

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Regional Events

The most important cultural event of the region is the Festival of Pacific Arts, held every four years (Suva, Fiji, 1972; Rotorua, N.Z., 1976; Port Moresby, P.N.G., 1980; Tahiti, 1985; Townsville, Australia, 1988; Rarotonga, 1992; Samoa, 1996; New Caledonia, 2000; Palau, 2004; American Samoa, 2008, Solomon Islands, 2012). The festival gathers in one place the cultures and folklores of all of Oceania. The coordination of each festival is in the hands of the Council of Pacific Arts, founded at Nouméa in 1977 under the auspices of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

The Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival of the five Melanesian Spearhead countries was held in Honiara in 1998, in Port Vila in 2002, in Fiji in 2006, and in New Caledonia in 2010. Since 1987, a Marquesas Islands Festival has been held about every four years.

The Pacific Games, the region's major sporting event, was created at the 1961 South Pacific Conference to promote friendship among the peoples of the Pacific and encourage the development of amateur sports. Since then the games have been held in Fiji (1963), New Caledonia (1966), P.N.G. (1969), French Polynesia (1971), Guam (1975), Fiji (1979), Samoa (1983), New Caledonia (1987), P.N.G. (1991), French Polynesia (1995), Guam (1999), Fiji (2003), Samoa (2007), and New Caledonia (2011), with the larger Pacific countries (New Caledonia, Fiji, P.N.G., and French Polynesia) dominating. Some 5,000 athletes from 22 countries gather for the games and, to give the smaller countries a better chance, Australia, Hawaii, and New Zealand don't participate. The five compulsory sports are athletics, basketball, soccer, swimming, and tennis, but almost any sport can be included if at least six teams approve it. The Mini Pacific Games take place two years after the main games.