Rapa Nui--The Big Paddle


The music of Rapanui (Easter Island), as with its original language and culture, remains a source of great mystery. The remnants and permutations that have survived European contact show that the lost, traditional Rapanui music is now irretrievably mixed with its later influences. What once was a unique Polynesian music now is sung with guitars and a distinctly Chilean flavor. No significant instruments survive, only fairly recent recordings. We may never know whether a great music, perhaps musical rites for the Birdman Cult, ever emerged on the island.

Buying: To start a collection of Easter Island records, the advice can be only: and and all.

Rapanui LPs

5Claude Jannel (rec.): The Easter Island; Arion; 1976 (Italy; Peters International FARN-91040)
7Jorge di Lauro: Isla de Pascua ST; Odeon "Serie Estelar" LDC-36547; 1965 (Chile; 2-LP)
7Margot Loyola y Conjunto Pascuense: Isla de Pascua; RCA Victor Chile CML-2096; 1966
6Various: Taraina; IRT LPVE-6525; 1972 (Chile)

More About Rapanui

Moai in BarcelonaThe remotest inhabited place on Earth, Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, is the eastern node of Polynesia and all Oceania. It lies in the middle of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, roughly between Tahiti and Chile; it is a Chilean territory. Called by the Rapanui people the "navel of the world," the name of the volcanic island means, literally, "Big Paddle." For Polynesian voyagers sailing eastward, it was a lot farther a paddle than the island of Rapa; for all who journeyed it was probably the final paddle.

Ao (dance paddle) [At left is a ceremonial ao (paddle, or rapa).]

As one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, Easter Island has long been a subject of fascination. The initial mysteries, most having to do with the carving, transportation, and erection of the colossal stone Moai statues, are more or less solved. But with its unique history and other, compelling native art, the enigmatic Rapa Nui still has much to offer. In addition, some scientists consider it a rare microcosm: its drastic, historical failures foretelling planetary demise at the hands of man.

Other Mysteries of Rapa Nui

Moai in France There are many excellent print, Internet, and video sources for information on Rapa Nui and its Moai. There are popular touring exhibits as well as small, museum-quality reproductions of the Moai statues available -- in addition to the native crafts made on the island itself. Our subject is a few of the other mysteries of Rapa Nui.

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