In this module: We will be exploring harmony.

  • Students will experience ‘call and response’.
  • Students will experience and create ‘3rd’ harmonies.
  • Students will experience and create ‘held’ harmonies.
  • Students will create ambient sounds.
  • Students will create an arrangement of a song, incorporating melody, harmony, ambience and movement.

Expanded background & useful links

The Peoples of the Pacific
The Pacific Ocean contains an estimated 20,000-30,000 islands. They are sometimes collectively called Oceana and categorised in the groupings Melanesia (the black islands – including New Guinea & Torres Strait Islands), Micronesia (the small islands – including Guam & Nauru) and Polynesia (many islands – including New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, Samoa & Tonga)

The Music
Some music of the Pacific Islands is characterized by rolling, sea or wave-like rhythms and lilting melodies and harmonies. Some languages (such as New Zealand’s Maori language) contain words that end in an ‘open’ vowel sound. This contributes to the ‘rolling’ effect.

Some music is based on drumming, utilizing log drums, split drums and even PVC pipes played with thongs (rubber footwear).

Bamboo pipes (including ‘pan pipes’ and bamboo jaw harps) are also found in Pacific Island music, as are conch shells.

Some Useful Links:
Pacific Music Archive

The ukulele
This instrument is related to the guitar. It is small, has 4 nylon strings and is strummed with the backs of the fingers or the thumb. There are 4 sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. It originated in Hawaii in the 19th century, probably via Portuguese immigrants. The name ‘ukulele’ is thought to mean ‘jumping flea’, a reference to the way the fingers ‘dance’ on the strings. By the early 20th century it was gaining popularity in the USA (most likely through its presence at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco) and from there spread internationally.

In the UK, entertainer George Formby popularised the ukulele and the banjo-ukulele with songs like When I’m Cleaning Windows and Leaning on a Lamp-post. In the USA, ‘Tin Pan Alley’ songwriters created a craze for Ukuleles with songs like Ukulele Lady – (appearing on the Muppets).

The ukulele regularly gains a revival of interest and in the late 60s American performer Tiny Tim led such a revival with his version of Tiptoe through the Tulips.

Today we are experiencing another revival, with new exponents such as Kake Shimabukuro.
His amazing virtuosity can be seen on his website

You must see this video of Jake playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps to believe it!

The lap steel guitar
The lap steel guitar is a small bodied guitar with either a hollow or a solid timber body. The instrument is laid flat across the lap of the seated performer. The strings are much higher (further from the neck) than on a standard guitar, and Instead of pressing the strings to the neck to make a sound, the performer slides a metal bar (a ‘steel’ or ‘slide’) up and down the strings while plucking them with fingers.

This instrument was also introduced from Hawai’i to the USA at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. It became very popular in Country, Bluegrass and Western Swing music.
A lap steel is the first sound heard at the start of the Looney Tunes theme.

Today there are many different versions of the instrument, used by many performers in different fields. Some noteable players are: Ash Grunwald, Ben Harper, Daniel Lanois, David Lindley, David Gilmour, Jerry Douglas, John Butler, Steve Howe, Xavier Rudd, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

More info on the lap steel at The Well

See videos at The Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association website

How to make a hangi
A hangi is a traditional Maori way of cooking food. It takes a lot of preparation and is often reserved for special occasions: weddings, birthdays, funerals, family and community gatherings. Normally the men prepare the hangi while the women make the food.

First: dig a hole in the ground about a metre deep, a metre wide and two metres long Lay wooden slats across the bottom of the hole and make a fire on top of the slats Light the fire and place river rocks on top. The fire makes the stones red hot until they fall through the slats.

The food (different vegetables and meats) is placed in large woven baskets, which are lined with cabbage leaves. Clean linen covers the food and wet sacks are placed over the baskets, which are then placed on top of the red hot stones. Fill in the hole. Allow the food to cook for three hours.
More info at

See a hangi on Youtube