Rationales in flux

Charting transcultural Polynesian music-making processes


  • Andrew Faleatua Sydney Conservatorium of Music




Pacific music, composition, participant observation


This article explores how Pacific artists’ notions of cultural authenticity, identity and perceived audience expectation play out in the composition of new transcultural music (i.e. music displaying an amalgamation of both traditional Pacific and contemporary popular music influences). It is grounded in ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Sydney, Australia over a period of two years. Its central aim is to balance a field of inquiry in which transcultural Pacific music is frequently interpreted as an expression of identity via retrospective musical analysis and reflection. In contrast to these prevailing trends, this article builds a case for real-time investigation into how artists engage and negotiate ideas about cultural authenticity, identity and perceived audience expectation when generating new transcultural works.

Author Biography

Andrew Faleatua, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Andrew Faleatua is a PhD student in the Department of Composition and Music Technology, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.


Alexeyeff, Kalissa. 2004. ‘Sea Breeze: Globalisation and Cook Islands Popular Music’. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 5/2 (August): 145–58. https://doi.org/10.1080/1444221042000247689

Barney, Katelyn. 2010. ‘Hop, Skip and Jump: Indigenous Australian Women Performing within and against Aboriginalism’. Journal of Music Research Online 1/1: 1–19.

Cattermole, Jennifer. 2011. ‘“Oh Reggae but Different!”: The Localisation of Roots Reggae in Aotearoa’. In Home, Land and Sea: Situating Music in Aotearoa New Zealand, ed. Glenda Keam, Tony Mitchell and Don McGlashan, 47–59. Auckland: Pearson Education.

—2013. ‘Beyond the Black Atlantic: Black Outernationality and Afrocentrism in Aotearoa/New Zealand Roots Reggae’. Musicology Australia 35/1 (July): 112–37. https://doi.org/10.1080/08145857.2013.761102

Colson, Geoffroy. 2016. Compositional Ethnomusicology and the Tahitian Musical Landscape: Towards Meta-Sustainability through Creative Practice Research Informed by Ethnographic Fieldwork. Sydney: University of Sydney.

Frith, Simon. 1996. ‘Music and Identity’. In Questions of Cultural Identity, ed. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, 108–127. London: SAGE. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446221907.n7

Henderson, April K. 2010. ‘Gifted Flows: Making Space for a Brand New Beat’. The Contemporary Pacific 22/2: 293–315. https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2010.0021

Jolly, Margaret. 2007. ‘Imagining Oceania: Indigenous and Foreign Representations of a Sea of Islands’. The Contemporary Pacific 19/2: 508–545. https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2007.0054

Kartomi, Margaret J. 1981. ‘The Processes and Results of Musical Culture Contact: A Discussion of Terminology and Concepts’. Ethnomusicology 25/2 (May): 227–49. https://doi.org/10.2307/851273

McGavin, Kirsten. 2014. ‘Being “Nesian”: Pacific Islander Identity in Australia’. The Contemporary Pacific 26/1: 126–54. https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2014.0013

Mitchell, Tony. 1998. ‘He Waiata Na Aotearoa: M?ori and Pacific Island Music in Aotearoa/New Zealand’. In Sound Alliances: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Politics, and Popular Music in the Pacific, ed. Philip Hayward, 26–44. New York: Cassell.

Neuenfeldt, Karl, and Lyn Costigan. 2004. ‘Negotiating and Enacting Musical Innovation and Continuity: How Some Torres Strait Islander Songwriters Incorporate Traditional Dance Chants within Contemporary Songs’. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 5/2 (August): 113–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/1444221042000247661

Small, Christopher. 1999. ‘Musicking—the Meanings of Performing and Listening: A Lecture’. Music Education Research 1/1 (March): 9–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1461380990010102

Thomas, David R. 2006. ‘A General Inductive Approach for Analyzing Qualitative Evaluation Data’. American Journal of Evaluation 27/2 (June): 237–46. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098214005283748

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. 2012. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books.

Vaioleti, Timote M. 2006. ‘Talanoa Research Methodology: A Developing Position on Pacific Research’. Waikato Journal of Education 12/1 (September): 21–34. https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v12i1.296

Warren, Jeff R. 2014. Music and Ethical Responsibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zemke-White, Kirsten. 2002. ‘Reverse Resistance: Pacific Engagement with Popular Music in New Zealand’. In Pacific Art Niu Sila: The Pacific Dimension of Contemporary New Zealand Arts, ed. S. Mallon and P. F. Pereira, 117–24. Wellington: Te Papa Press.

—2005. ‘Nesian Styles (Re)Present R’n’B: The Appropriation, Transformation and Realisation of Contemporary R’n’B with Hip Hop by Urban Pasifika Groups in Aotearoa’. Sites 2/1: 94–123. https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol2iss1id54

Zemke, Kirsten. 2011. ‘New Zealand Hip Hop Stands Up’. In Home, Land and Sea: Situating Music in Aotearoa New Zealand, ed. Glenda Keam, Tony Mitchell and Don McGlashan, 104–13. Auckland: Pearson Education.



How to Cite

Faleatua, A. (2019). Rationales in flux: Charting transcultural Polynesian music-making processes. Perfect Beat, 19(2), 107–121. https://doi.org/10.1558/prbt.36237




Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.