ASCC Ethnomusicology Forum Showcases Diversity of Samoan Music
October 28, 2015
By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer
In conjunction with the 2015 Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival, the Fine Arts Department at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) hosted an Ethnomusicology Forum titled “Sounds of Samoa” on Friday, October 25th. The forum, attended by ASCC students and the public, featured local music scholars and teachers, as well as distinguished guests from off-island including renowned authority on Samoan music Dr. Richard Moyle and composer/ conductor Matatumua Opeloge Ah Sam, both from New Zealand.
ASCC Fine Arts Department chairman Kuki Tuiasosopo described the forum as “a very successful event” which highlighted the diversity of expression within the music of Samoa. “It was very important to have Dr. Moyle as keynote speaker,” said Tuiasosopo, “since he initiated thorough academic research and study of Samoan Music. His collection of field recordings allows us to hear and study a Samoan traditional music that we rarely hear nowadays, and his research findings are vital to the academic literature that exists on the subject of music in Samoa.” Dr. Moyle taught ethnomusicology for almost 30 years at The University of Auckland, where he was also Director of the Archive of Maori and Pacific Music and Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies. Although retired, he holds honorary positions at The University of Auckland and the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
Following opening remarks by Tuiasosopo, keynote speaker Dr. Moyle led off the morning session of the forum with a comparative analysis titled, “Samoa and Tonga: Who Copied Who?” Local author and musician Chande Drabble followed with “Tusi Pese Fatuga Tuai a Samoa.” Next came Fine Arts faculty member Regina Meredith, who explored “The Love Affair of Art and Music,” before making way for Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin, Retired Program Director of Samoan Studies, Wellington NZ, who shared his study of “The Story Depicted Through The Words of Leafaitulagi.”
Also giving presentations during the morning session were Poe Mageo of the ASCC Fine Arts Faculty, who shared his insights on “Lyrics & Lines: Poetic Presence Between Folk Songs and Literary Elements;” ASCC Community and Natural Resources Division Director Tapaau Dr. Dan Aga, who Illuminated “The Evolution of the Marching Band in American Samoa;” and Loretta Leagatonu Puaauli, also of the Fine Arts Department, who discussed “Liturgical Music of the Catholic Church in American Samoa.”
The forum’s afternoon session led off with a screening of a work in progress titled “From Conch Shell to Computer,” a documentary film by Daniel Pouesi. While the filmmaker himself was unable to attend the forum, the inclusion of appearances by many local figures on the music scenes of Pago Pago and Apia is sure to generate interest in the work when its final version is given release. Following the film, Francis Leleua of the Department of Education Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability offered “A Brief History of Jazz.” The session was rounded off with a talk titled “A Samoan View of Jazz” by Matatumua Opeloge Ah Sam, currently Director of the Auckland Wind Orchestra. Following his scheduled presentation, Matatumua treated the audience a live performance with his band to bring the forum to a rousing close.
“I was very happy with the turnout of the forum,” reflected Tuiasosopo. “I particularly liked the variety of topics presented, and the students and faculty in the audience were also very impressed. For me, the interesting thing was that all of the papers were focused on the cultural aspects of Samoan music, including history and language.” Tuiasosopo expressed his hopes that the Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival will take place again in 2016 so that the Fine Arts Department can organize another forum to tie-in with the main event. “In addition to Dr. Moyle returning,” mused Tuiasosopo, “I would very much like to invite other Samoan ethnomusicologists such as Aaron Sala and Courtney Savali. This would give our forum even more breadth and scope.”
For more information on Fine Arts class offerings at ASCC, see the Catalog available on the College’s website at www.amsamoa.edu/catalogs.html.