Bula! Welcome to “Meke”!
Everywhere in the world, dance and music are considered an expression of a way of life, a tradition. Together with a much less old – but no less pleasant – barbecue, Volivoli Beach Resort on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji, offers a weekly evening event dedicated to the customs of the inhabitants: The “Fiji Night”!
On the South Sea island, people like to celebrate a lot; there is the claim that the people here are only so exceptionally friendly because they are almost always in “celebration mode”! This cannot be completely denied; music and dance are an essential part of the village life in Fiji.
The master of ceremonies leads through the evening, explains to his guests in the best of moods what the following songs and dance scenes, telling of epic battles and daily hardships, are about.
Vocals, traditional tone woods, drums, guitars, bamboo flutes and ukulele accompany the “Meke”, the dance of the warriors, which tells stories and legends. Spears and wooden shields are part of the equipment of the traditionally dressed men, sometimes also a fan or a bamboo cane. The dance is accompanied by rhythmic hand clapping and the “Lali”, an ancient Fijian drum set.
The dance of the women is called Vakamalolo. They dress in the typical “tapa” robes and sway sitting to the sound of the drums. Several generations are represented, adult women, older ladies and some girls, which is common everywhere on the Fiji islands. At Volivoli, two blond children stand out among the naturally mostly dark-skinned people: The daughters of Nick and Steve Darling, the owners of the resort. The girls grew up here and according to the text, they move to the mixture of Melanesian and Polynesian rhythms synchronously with their friends.
Kava should not be missing on any celebration, also as a visitor you can’t avoid to try at least a few sips of the intoxicating brew from the intoxicating pepper plant, which taste is benevolently described as “weird”.
And because all this is not a racket organised for tourists but a living tradition, the “Fiji Night” at Volivoli ends – as everywhere on the South Sea archipelago – with “Isa Lei”, the probably most famous Fijian song.
Isa Lei is an exclamation of regret, of farewell. And a clear demand:
“Domoni dina na nomu yanuyanu (Over the ocean your island home is calling),
Kena kau wale na salusalu (Happy land where roses bloom in splendor)”
I guess what it’s trying to say is: “Come back!”