8-3 Playing Tourist on Santo: Water Music and Kastom Dance

Water music

Along with my adventures going to people-I-don’t-know’s wedding, I got to tag along on a water music and kastom dance tour. (This is the fun part of having other PCV’s family come visit. Well, that and meeting people’s families.)

We arrived at the place and were ushered into a small seating area with a natagura roof. In the middle was a young man making kava by basis– stone-ground. He greeted us and the tour guide started talking about the kastom way of making kava, what the ritual is around kava and other anecdotes of the lovely drug we drink. His English was very good and he could answer the questions the other people asked. He sort of used me as a crutch, but I think that was out of habit and embarrassment, he didn’t need me.

More kava pictures…

We each got a shell of basiskava, which was nice. I miss basiskava, it tastes better and is stronger than meat-grinder kava. It was also pretty fresh, as opposed to a lot of Vila kava. The best part was the rest of the groups reaction to the kava. The parents were not going to drink anymore kava, but then didn’t want to be rude. After they drank, they looked at me and said, “It really is better that way.” All the volunteers with us said the same thing. I said, “I told you so.”

The women who perform are all from Gaua directly or are married to men from Gaua. Gaua is one of the larger banks islands and is an active volcano. They said they want to do this kind of tourism there but there aren’t enough tourists, so they came to Lugainville to do it instead. When they got to Lugainville, they needed a place to do it. So, they started a a kava bar to raise money to build a swimming pool. Now, they have a swimming pool and seating for tourists.

Badass face paint, take 1

The women of Gaua do what they call Water Music. They cup their hands in different sizes and slap the water of a pool to create different sounds. I’m not sure I would call it music, at least not music like a concert. I would liken it to a drum line, rather than a symphony. The sounds were mimicries of sounds in nature, like the sound a bird makes taking off from the water, or rain on a nataguraroof. Still, it was neat to hear and watch. I imagine it would be more impressive with more people, but it is midwinter here and not a lot of women were willing to get in the water.

Badass face- and body-paint

After the water music, we turned our chairs around and faced the dancing ground. The men came out and performed three kastomdances. My chair was at an awkward angle for photography, so I sat on the floor with my legs dangling over the edge of the stage. One of the dances was about kava, including the effects of kava. One of the effects of kava, is staggering around and holding onto your friends. The dancer who ended up in front of me grabbed onto my legs, instead of his dance partner. It was a cute touch to performance.

Afterward, we got pictures and refreshments. We were the last tour group of the day, so the tour guides sat and chatted with us longer than usual. I’m willing to guess that was partly due to being able to chat in Bislama, too. Still, we wandered over to their kava bar to wait for the bus and had a shell with them. The bus was late (of course), so we had a few shells with them. Unfortunately, it was not basiskava.

Every once in awhile, I do silly tourist things.

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