A cultural event is aiming to help revive traditional and contemporary Tongan music, paying tribute to both the past and the present
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A cultural event is aiming to help revive traditional and contemporary Tongan music, paying tribute to both the past and the present.
Koe Po Hiva Tu'ufonua FakaTonga (A Night of Tongan Classical Music) is taking the stage for the second time again this weekend with the best of old and new songs.
While using the same word, Tongan classical music sounds nothing like Western classical music.
Show founder Professor Okusi Mahina says they’re showcasing the longevity of the form.
“Tongan music is a living entity, changing and changing ceaselessly over time. The performance captures both Tongan vocal and instrumental music.”
The Feohi'anga Alonga 'ia Kalaisi Kava Collective, which is a group of 30 families, is putting on the show.
The group is doing material from renowned Tongan artists, such as Queen Sälote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tupou III, Prince Fatafehi Tu'ipelehake.
Mahina says the concert takes the beauty and practicality of Tongan music to a whole new level.
“From garages, community and church halls, and parks to theatre spaces. It also intends to exhibit both the beauty and utility of Tongan by way of both process and outcome.”
Tenor Kelepi Tapa’atu wants to make sure that every item deeply resonates with the audience.
“I want people to not only hear but feel the story behind each song and performance. These songs were composed of true stories that I am proud of.”
He also hopes the musical legacy is passed on.
“It’s important that this generation learns the beauty of how the traditional Tongan songs were composed by sung poetry and vocal instruments and before lyrics were created.”
Tapa’atu is optimistic about the future of classical Tongan music.
“I hope this generation does not take us back to traditional music but brings traditional music to the future.”
Mahina agrees that the relationship between older and younger individuals is essential.
“The young in Tonga, metaphorically taken as the ‘reefs’ of today but ‘lands’/’island’ of tomorrow; the successful passing of the knowledge of (and skills in) music.”