Rarotonga

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Dancing & drumming

Expressing the stories of the islands

Traditional dance is known as ura. Dancers move their bodies to express the stories of the islands, accompanied by singing and drumming. Ura began as a sacred ritual in Polynesia and has now become a popular dance form.

Rarotonga dancing
Watch the hands as well as the hips and legs

Watch the hands as well as the hips and legs - different gestures symbolise different meanings. The dancers are telling stories of birds, flowers, the ocean and, of course, of love and loss, the sadness and joy of we humans.

Distinctive drumbeat sets the tempo

Distinctive to the sound of Cook Islands music is the full and resonating drumbeat. A typical Cook Islands drum team involves five or more drummers setting the tempo and directing the body and hand movements as well as the hip and leg motion.

Cook Islands drums can be divided into three groups: wooden drums or slit gongs, skin or 'true' drums and specialised rhythm makers, which imitate or substitute drum rhythms.

Rarotonga drumming
The drumming is some of the world's best

A typical drum team usually involves five or more drummers: a lead drummer (pate taki), support lead (pate takirua), a double player (tokere or pate akaoro) on wooden gongs, and two other players on skin drums (pa'u and mango).

The basic one-one beat of the pa'u sets the sideways motion of the hips and the inward snapping of the knees of dancers. A second basic beat is produced from the pate, which directs the hand and body movements of dancers. The other drum instruments take on supporting roles although they do occasionally take over the control of movements.