Publication Details

Webb, M. & Webb-Gannon, C. (2016). Musical Melanesianism: Imagining and Expressing Regional Identity and Solidarity in Popular Song and Video. Contemporary Pacific, 28 (1), 59-95.


This article identifies and explores an emerging tendency among Melanesians to reenvision their region for the present time. It examines a corpus of popular songs and accompanying videos produced over the last decade that promote regional identity, a phenomenon driven by four factors: diasporic experience as well as a general increase in mobility and global awareness; dissatisfaction with the ruling class; desire to counter negative portrayals of the region abroad; and deep concern over the deprivation of fellow Melanesians' rights to political autonomy. The article demonstrates that this reenvisioning of Melanesianism reiterates key themes of the region's seminal postcolonial thinkers, Epeli Hau'ofa, Walter Lini, Bernard Narokobi, and Jean-Marie Tjibaou; at the same time it develops the concept of wantok-ism and elaborates the idea of "one skin" or blackness as distinctive, thus turning the pejorative associations and experiences of being labeled the black "nesia" into a feature to celebrate. Analysis in the article is guided by a framework that considers the lyrical, musical, and visual devices through which musical Melanesianism is being articulated and projected: mapping, flagging, dancing, and vocality-devices from the "do-it-yourself kit" for performing regionalism.



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