Laufatu o pese ma siva
Music and dance
Music and dance are embedded in Pacific cultural ways of being and are a way for tamaiti and āiga to connect with their ancestors and cultural narratives. Music and dance are significant parts of Pacific cultures. They enable the transmission of language and are a way to represent, express, and celebrate cultural values and beliefs.
As tamaiti become familiar with the words of songs and dance movements they develop competence in understanding and interpreting language to express themselves in meaningful contexts through actions.
The beat, rhythm, pattern, and sequence of Pacific music and dance are strongly connected to early mathematical learning.
“Te Whāriki rests on the theory that all children will succeed in education when the foundations to their learning are based on an understanding and a respect for their cultural roots”. Tilly Reedy (2013), (cited in Te Whāriki p.15)
When children hear music and are involved in dance experiences from their culture, it contributes to their sense of belonging and strengthens their cultural identity. Experiencing music and dance from their own and other cultures affirms and uplifts the mana of tamaiti and their fanau.
How do we apply it in practice?
We invite you to view the music and dance video and consider how you are supporting Pacific learners to know their identities, languages, and cultures through music and dance.
In this video, you will see and hear tamaiti and kaiako involved in meaningful music and dance experiences from different Pacific cultures.
Kaiako share the ways they embed music, songs, and waiata in everyday experiences and routines with tamaiti as part of their local curriculum design. They promote the use of cultural artefacts (ula, 'ei, skirts, lavalava, drums) to enhance tamaiti involvement in music and dance experiences in authentic ways. Kaiako of Pacific heritages also share music and dance from their cultures with tamaiti.
Ideas for your service
A significant feature relating to the transferring of cultural knowledge through music and dance is the concept of tei laititi-tei matua, similar to the Cook Island Māori concept of tuakana-teina, where older tamaiti take on the role of teaching younger tamaiti. It is critical that kaiako honour the personal cultural knowledge and experiences that Pacific tamaiti bring with them to the early childhood service and provide opportunities for tamaiti to use this knowledge to strengthen their sense of their identities, languages, cultures, belonging, and wellbeing.
Music and dance experiences are shared and members of the wider Pacific communities embrace the opportunities to join the early learning services to share their cultural knowledge and support others to learn more about Pacific music and dance.
- Think of ways that you can connect with Pacific music and dance through the games and physical learning experiences that tamaiti engage in. Find games or activities that involve chants, songs, or opportunities for tamaiti to be playful with words and sounds from their own languages.
- When Pacific tamaiti are involved in their play experiences, ensure there are appropriate resources available that enable them to express themselves through music and dance. This might be a YouTube video, a video recording, drums and coconut shells, dancing skirts, or ula.
- Equip your centre and kaiako with as many culturally relevant music and dance resources for tamaiti to identify and connect with. In Pacific cultures, music and dance is for everyone, so include younger tamaiti in music and dance experiences.
- Learn some songs or dances from different Pacific cultures that you can incorporate into your daily routines. Enjoy music and singing while you are completing other activities, like gardening or digging in the sandpit.
- Think about the ways you can invite children and their fanau to share music and dances from their home, church, or wider community. Engage with your Pacific parents and community to understand what music and dances are culturally important to them, and what they would like to see, feel and hear in the service. Watch the video to see kaiako talk about how they approach their Pacific families about what resources they may like to share.
- Use Pacific songs as part of your storytelling practice. Lots of Pacific songs tell stories, or describe everyday rituals and practices. Singing allows for the repetition of the story or message, and even very young tamaiti are able to follow along with simple words and actions.
- Find out about the music and dance that is significant for tamaiti and fanau in your community or for your kaiako, and consider the space you create for this to be shared and celebrated. Allow children to be the experts in their own cultural music and dance and teach kaiako as well as their friends.
- Look for ways to incorporate other arts with music and dance. This might be through weaving, dying, painting, or printing to create something to dance in, like a dancing skirt or ‘ei, or something to dance with, like a drum.
- When listening to Pacific music or doing siva or sāsā ura with children, talk about the patterns and sequences of the beats, rhythm, and actions. Listen to Pacific drum beats and encourage tamaiti to repeat the patterns they hear. Experiment with different instruments, including body percussion, buckets, pairs of sticks and tables or the floor. Talk about loud and quiet, hard and soft, fast and slow.
- When supporting pepe (babies), engage with parents to understand what is familiar to them, what they see hear and feel in their worlds. These might be familiar words, songs, lullabies, or pese (songs), movements, or a Pacific custom like massage. Teach toddlers songs with actions, and give them resources, such as drums, coconut shells, or other musical instruments to use.
- Pacific Beatz on the Plunket, Whānau Āwhina website has examples of Pacific songs for young learners.
In your service:
- What regular opportunities do children have to experience music, songs, dance, and other forms of creative expression from their own and other cultures?
- How do you support Pacific tamaiti to share their own songs and dances?
- How can you engage in conversations with tamaiti to revisit their music and dance experiences?
- What opportunities do you provide for tamaiti and their āiga to share intergenerational music, songs, and dances with you?
- How do you connect with the wider Pacific communities and events to find out about their music, songs, and dance and see cultural values in action?
- How could you use what you have learnt here to help drive your local curriculum planning?
- How could you discover the aspirations parents and families have for their tamaiti in the arts?
- How can you learn about the cultural messages within Pacific music, songs, and dance?
- What did you see in the music and dance video that you think you could implement in your service now?
- How are you deliberately planning opportunities to integrate and support mathematical learning by drawing attention to beat, rhythm, pattern, and sequence through music and dance?
These reflective questions and provocations remind us of the holistic ways that the four key Pacific art areas are interconnected and woven together.
Knowing your tamaiti and their families and community well, and allowing them to explore their languages, cultures, and identities through music and dance, gives them the tools to explore their connections to the past as well as where they are right now.
Each Pacific heritage has its own unique way of looking at the world - explaining that world through music and dance is common to all Pacific cultures. The passing on of songs, rhythms, and movement over time has helped to keep languages, cultures, and identities alive.
A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale
Dare to dance, leave shame at home
Explore other Pacific arts
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