Tongan Love Song

A Quest to Capture Capture the South Pacific in Music

Listen: Listen to a full-length cut of the Tongan love song "Faikava"

David Fanshawe

David Fanshawe, with just some of the hundreds of tape recordings made during his travels in the South Pacific. Courtesy David Fanshawe hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy David Fanshawe
Cover for the CD

Cover for the CD South Pacific: Island Music, available on the Nonesuch Explorer Series. hide caption

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Available Online

More than 20 years ago, recording engineer David Fanshawe set out on an adventure — to record the music of the South Pacific.

He traveled the South Pacific islands with a rucksack, 200 rolls of tape, 35mm film and a stereo tape recorder.

One of his first stops was a drinking club in the island nation of Tonga. The drink of choice was kava, prepared from the root of a shrub called the pepper plant.

On that night in 1978, Fanshawe recorded a traditional love song called "Faikava,"sung by the villagers of Holonga on the island of Vava'U in the Tongan archipelago.

"You can hear Kava being poured by a girl garlanded with sweet smelling white flowers," Fanshawe says.

Below, a translation of "Faikava":

The dear lily flower is staying behind, but we would be weeping remembering the appearance.

You can please yourself and a select a sweetheart — or somebody who would be your equal, and who might have known you better.

My dear Maile (leaves), I wish that you could read my mind as this romance will drive me crazy.

Alas, poor me. Alas.

I don't know. How could I be? How could I be?

Fanshawe's recordings, called South Pacific: Island Music, are available on the Nonesuch Explorer Series.

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