Recovering Samoan instrumental music to promote cultural heritage and enterprise

GCRF Funding Cycle

Principal Investigator
Emma Sutton


ODA countries
Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands

Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1, Goal 5

The project aims to build a consortium of scholars, musicians and heritage industry staff recovering rare Samoan traditional instrumental music. It was developed in collaboration with Samoan musicians, musicologists and heritage industry staff in response to their requests. Within Samoa, traditional instrumental music is little-known; relatively few players and instrument-makers survive, many are elderly. Drawing on the successful example of the Māori music revival, this project is building a consortium of scholars, musicians and heritage industry staff to promote traditional Samoan musical heritage, tangible and intangible, contributing to the wider Polynesian Renaissance. Project activity focuses, initially, on identifying appropriate resources within Samoa; subsequent years aim to build a context in which this cultural heritage is known and valued. The project is engaging users within Samoan and the wider Pacific plus local Pacific communities in Scotland. Project events and outcomes include: public talks and performances in Samoa and the UK; recording and filming of musicians; development of educational/museum legacy resources in Samoa; economic support for instrument-makers through collaboration with tourist resorts and art centres in Samoa; and the commission of a musical work and a piece of creative writing by Samoan artists in response to the traditional instruments.

Collaboration with the National University of Samoa (NUS) on the performance of a traditional Samoan ‘pese’ (song) in June 2019 has been highly effective in raising pride in Samoan music and awareness of this project. The song has been broadcast on Tagata Pasifika (NZTV), on YouTube and other social media channels. These have been accessed 13,000+ times to date and have generated enquires to NUS from choirs across the Pacific region interested to use and learn more about traditional Samoan music.