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The best mekes are those performed in villages to mark special occasions.

The Fijian meke is not a song or a dance as understood in the Western sense. To know just what a meke truly is, one must understand something about the Fijian people themselves.

Fijians are communal, living in villages which have the intimacy of a family. Throughout their history, they developed a form of celebration to express a variety of stories and emotions, some of them depicting their history, others for mere amusement, and some simple tales of romance similar to the common ballads of today.

Because of their strong sense of community, a meke is performed for the entertainment of the participants as well as for those who might wish to merely observe.

It involves a complex series of movement and, like the Hawaiian hula, every little gesture has a meaning. The songs and chants are sung by a small group separate from the dancers, while the beat is kept by a lali, or Fijian hollow log drum.

Children begin learning the words and movements of meke even before they can walk, and there are few sights as touching as watching a group of young Fijians perform one of these traditional celebrations.

Many resorts and hotels in Fiji feature regular mekes, bringing in a group from a nearby village. This is the ideal opportunity to get a photograph of Fijians in traditional dress doing what they love.

During the performance, it is common to thank the dancers by giving them sweets, and in recent years, by slipping money behind their ear. When the meke is about to finish, you may find yourself being asked to join in. It is hard to refuse and a great deal of fun.

But the best mekes are those performed in villages to mark a special occasion, where you will see everyone from toddlers to grandmothers getting involved, and will witness how this form of syncopated movement and song helps to bolster tradition and the unity of the group.

If you are lucky during your visit to Fiji, you may hear of a village which is having a celebration, which will of course include mekes. Don’t miss it.

Rythm

 

 

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