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The lali, a large wooden drum, was originally used to communicate over long distances.

The beating of the Fijian drum or lali is commonly used for calling the faithful to church each Sunday morning or for calling guests at resorts to the bar at happy hour or to the restaurant during meal times.

The lali, a large wooden drum, was originally used to communicate over long distances using a series of beats played out over the drum.

The simple beat which is commonly heard today is made by hitting the hollowed lali with two short sticks. The beat produced is regular and quite heavy.

In Fijis past, each different lali meant something very different.
For example, the lali ni tabua was played when a tabua (whales tooth) was presented to the chief of a village, where the lali ni waqa was played aboard a high chiefs canoe when approaching a neighbouring village.

Another beat, the lali ni kabakoro, was sounded when a village was engaged in war with another tribe. If a chief was slain in battle, another lali beat signalled the death. Such beats were primarily meant to scare or intimidate the foe and to express the triumph of the victors.

After battle, the winners were often prompted to build a bure kalou or spirit house. When the structure neared completion a lali ni bure would signal the fact. This particular lali beat was unique in that it was accompanied by voices chanting Doka, doka, doka.

And when a war came to an end, the drum of peace (lali ni sautu) was sounded and life returned to normal.

The lali can still be heard at most celebrations which take place in Fiji today, but the fine art of matching the beat to the occasion has become little more than an interesting part of Fijian history.

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