Music of Vanuatu: the album

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star Music of Vanuatu: our CD album

After several years of cross-disciplinary teamwork on the musical arts of Vanuatu, we were delighted to transform our research into a CD album. A complement to the documentary film we produced in 2009, this album was published on 4 November 2013 by the Paris-based Maison des Cultures du Monde (“World Cultures Institute”), under their record label ‘Inédit’ which specialises in ethnomusicological recordings.

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Here’s the album’s reference:


François, Alexandre & Monika Stern. 2013. Musiques du Vanuatu: Fêtes et Mystères – Music of Vanuatu: Celebrations and Mysteries. Musical recordings (Label INÉDIT). Paris: Maison des Cultures du Monde. 1 CD W 260147. CD album: 73’39”, with accompanying booklet (24 + 128 pp.). [online presentation]


With a total duration of 74’, this album brings together 41 pieces of customary music of various genres and styles, recorded in nine different islands of northern Vanuatu, from Hiw to Pentecost. During our years of fieldwork as we prepared this project (1997-2011), we always put emphasis on live performances, when music is embedded in social practices – such as weddings, funeral or end-of-mourning celebrations, grade-taking ceremonies, but also lullabies, children’s rhymes or playful games in the forest… The result is a musical journey which we hope will help the listener experience the pleasures of music and life in these Pacific islands.

You may listen to audio samples, and purchase either individual pieces or the whole album, on various online platforms (e.g. Amazon, iTunes, Google Play…). You may also order a physical copy of the disc on the publisher’s page. A number of CDs, as well as 90 percent of sales, will be donated to the cultural institutions of Vanuatu – with the hope to foster more musical projects in the future, and promote the rich cultural heritage of this archipelago.


The musical arts of Vanuatu remain largely undocumented – whether in the detail of their instruments, melodies and rhythms, or the poetic forms and styles used in the songs themselves. And yet, these artistic practices include treasures worthy of being brought to light. This album aims to recreate the various musical atmospheres experienced by Vanuatu people in their lives. After listening to nature and the music it inspires, this musical journey meets daily life at the village with wedding and end-of-mourning ceremonies with dances, singing and drumming. The secular world of the village contrasts with the closed circles of important chiefs and Big Men, whose solemn grade-taking ceremonies are marked by the large slit gongs. Finally, comes the time of mystery. Initiates revive the dead and the ancestors with their song language and supernatural powers. Announced by the bullroarer, their steps dance to the sound of groaning voices and strange cries, punctuated by their drums and rattles.
These field recordings were collected between 1997 and 2010 in Torres, Banks, Pentecost, Ambae and Maewo Islands.


crosIn March 2014, our album received a “Coup de Cœur” award from the prestigious Académie Charles Cros, in the category “World Music & Ethnomusicology”.

Don’t forget: the 24-page printed booklet is supplemented by a 128-page electronic book, in open accesscheck it out here!

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©   Alexandre François 2017