Seleka’s profane potency

Kava artists and rebellious music in Tonga

Authors

  • Arcia Tecun University of Auckland
  • Taniela Petelo Seleka

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/prbt.40000

Keywords:

Tonga, Indigeneity, Kava, Ritual Performance, Popular Music

Abstract

The Seleka art and kava collective is found in the heart of the Kingdom of Tonga’s urban centre and capital. Seleka is a transformed nickname which is a play on the word kasele, meaning toilet or outhouse, an external othering and internal acceptance of divergence within Tongan society. Seleka is a site where urban Tongans paint and drink kava together while listening to rebellious music, incorporating some of the aesthetics and politics of these musical genres into their group. They have a broader musical playlist than most kava clubs in Tonga, which includes punk, rock and metal. This article explores the character of Seleka as a radical critique to Western introduced social constructs such as puritan respectability, which have become part of Tonga’s modern cultural norms. Seleka performs and generates mana (potency/prestige) through noa (profanity/neutralization) by desecrating the ‘sacred’ and recreating a new alternative. This act of rebellion is presented as a contemporary manifestation of an ancient Tongan practice where the ‘profane’ was used to identify and bring balance to the most tapu (‘sacred’/protected).

Author Biographies

Arcia Tecun , University of Auckland

Arcia Tecun is the pen name of Daniel Hernandez. He teaches at the University of Auckland and has conducted research in anthropology/ethnomusicology focusing on contemporary kava stories and songs.

Taniela Petelo, Seleka

Taniela Petelo is a painter, musician and MC, as well as a founding member of the Selekā group. He has travelled throughout Oceania for his art exhibitions and is based in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga.

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Published

2021-07-08

How to Cite

Tecun , A., & Petelo, T. . (2021). Seleka’s profane potency: Kava artists and rebellious music in Tonga. Perfect Beat, 20(2), 134–154. https://doi.org/10.1558/prbt.40000