Music and sung poetry in Vanuatu


“The Poet’s Salary”: A documentary

One of the outcomes of our joint research project on Vanuatu music was a documentary film (59') directed by Eric Wittersheim, entitled “Le Salaire du PoèteThe Poet's Salary” (2009). Here is a synopsis:

musiqueA linguist called Alex brings his family to the island of Motalava, Vanuatu, where he has been doing fieldwork for many years.  During this visit, he hopes to celebrate his ties with his adoptive family, by organising for them a tribute of a very special kind:  a song of praise, which the poets of the island will compose and sing in the mysterious language of the Spirits.  On this occasion, he has also invited Monika, an ethnomusicologist, and Eric, a visual anthropologist, hoping to share with them his fascination for the vibrant musical traditions of this community.

In the 2009 edition of the Festival Jean-Rouch du Film Ethnographique, “The Poet's Salary” won the Prix Bartók for the best 2009 film on music, awarded by the Société Française d'Ethnomusicologie.


You can watch excerpts of the movie below.


The film is primarily an exploration of the lively music of Vanuatu, more precisely in the island of Motalava.

Excerpt 1: Nawha titi song Vegir mwalmwal ‘Grabbing the young lady’


Besides its exploration of music as such, Éric's film also took the occasion to follow our team fieldwork, as we encountered new events and untold stories.

Excerpt 2: The old Albi remembers a personal episode of World War II


And of course, the linguist in the team could not help finding excuses to explore the linguistic mysteries of the region.

Excerpt 3: Exploring the phonetics of Hiw (Torres Islands): the velar preploded lateral consonant  
[for more background info on this footage, see the homepage of the Sorosoro foundation]



You may now want to go back to the general presentation of our team project on music, and follow the links therein. Or you may prefer to watch a slideshow on my discovery of Vanuatu, and view other pictures from my field trips.


©  Cécile Kielar