Sometimes it's possible to get so caught up in the action and adventure that holidays can bring that we don't take a second to sit back, relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of the local culture. It's definitely important to experience the adrenaline of flyboarding or the fun of frolicking in the surf, but it's another thing entirely to dive headfirst into an unfamiliar world and experience new sights and sounds that you'll never get back home.
A great way to do this is to spend some time on your holiday getting down with the local rhythms and grooves, and broadening your musical palate.
Feel the noise
There are few more important aspects of a culture than music. Professor Ian Cross of the University of Cambridge, a well-known expert in music, has written entire essays on the subject of how important the simple act of playing instruments together can be to a sense of community and the creation of a national identity. Cross suggests that music (based on our individual experiences as well as environment) is a fundamental part of our biological makeup and is a strong thread in the fabric of a country's personality.
For Fiji, that personality is fun, funky and constantly evolving. From the moment you arrive in the sun-drenched country, you'll be hearing music from every direction. Whether it be the stomping of feet and the shaking of 'ankle rattles' during a traditional dance or the latest in musical fusion at one of Suva's coolest clubs, rhythm and melodies are key elements of Fijian life and if you don't take a moment to experience them, you will be missing out.
Like a lot of Fiji's culture, the music is heavily influenced by both Melanesian and Polynesian roots, with the styles of both having found their way into much of the nation's musical output. This is predominantly in the form of folk music, which makes use of traditional instruments like the lali drum or the derua and is described by Go-Fiji.com as cheerful and exciting, with unique and fascinating rhythms and harmonies. For the best in modern revivals of this classic genre, Lonely Planet recommends Makare, Rako Pasefika and One2Eight as some of the best acts to try and catch live.
While the popularity of Fijian folk continues and is especially common amongst resort bands and in tourist destinations, the locals have cooked up some exciting variations on the genre for the more curious traveller. Known as 'vude,' one of Fiji's most unique musical styles was created in the 1980s by Laisa Vulakoro in an attempt to combine the traditional melodies and themes of traditional music with more modern rock, hip hop and even disco instrumentation. Vude was a roaring success and can be heard in music clubs and bars across the islands.
While music is a pastime that is enjoyed all over Fiji, the undoubted heart of the action is in the capital, Suva. The downtown area is packed with places where local talent can be heard, with two of Lonely Planet's recommendations being O'Reilly's and Traps Bar, although there are plenty of options for any age group.
Suva is also the centre of attention for some of Fiji's most exciting music festivals. If you happen to be in the area when one of these fantastic day-long concerts are on, these are great, family-friendly events that provide as much exposure to all of the nation's different musical genres as you can possibly pack into the day. Highlights include the Fiji International Jazz & Blues Festival, Diwali (which celebrates the rich Indian heritage of many Fijians) and the famous Hibiscus Festival, which is perhaps the biggest party of the year.
These festivals are also a fascinating option because they highlight local dance, food, clothing and tradition as well as the music. For a good, basic grounding in Fijian culture and music, there's nothing better!