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Tuesday, 23 April 2019 10:00 am

Pan pipers perform a skill their leader wants to preserve

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CULTURAL TIES: Godfrey Houma’i from the University of Canterbury during the performance. IMAGE: Francesca Jago

By LIAM CAVANAGH

SOLOMON Islanders from around New Zealand brought AreAre pan pipes to the Wellington Club on Friday night.

Led by Malaita islander Paul Lincoln, the group entertained diplomats, officials and guests with music and dance.

The event, hosted by High Commissioner Her Excellency Mrs Joy Kere, marked the 36th independence anniversary of the Solomon Islands.

The pan pipes represent and define who we are, says Mr Lincoln, who has been living in New Zealand since 2001.

Pan pipes, like boat building and handicraft, are all deeply rooted in village life, he says.

“It’s not something where somebody rings the bell and everyone comes and practises.”

Au mai mai, or small pan pipes, are made from bamboo and just one of the three kinds of pan pipes played throughout the archipelago.

The pan pipes are more than just an instrument, he says.

“If you play these pipes anywhere in the world, they’ll say he’s from so and so place. It’s telling people ‘he’s from this place’. It’s the most important thing.”

Mr Lincoln’s cultural knowledge is important, says University of Victoria Associate Professor Kabini Sanga, also from Malaita, who helped organise the anniversary celebrations.

He says Mr Lincoln’s knowledge of the pan pipes comes down to his father, who is a master of the pan pipes in his village.

As the Solomon Islands become more westernised however, Mr Lincoln says the tradition is losing its connection with young people.

“They’re brought up in cities and towns now, not from right in the village where culture is strong,” he says.

After bringing his family to New Zealand, Mr Lincoln discovered his children are more interested in sleepovers at friends, than practising pan pipes.

“One thing I always tell them, your culture or your custom is where you belong. You can go wherever you like, but you can’t leave your custom or your culture,” he says.

The group which played on Friday night were mostly students at the University of Canterbury, each of whom has at least one parent from the same area or island.

“Even if he doesn’t know how to blow it, he’ll hear it and recognise it because it’s a cultural thing,” says Mr Lincoln.

Mr Lincoln’s father still lives in his village on Malaita and says he is concerned about what might happen when he passes away.

“I think we’re going to start having a problem when passing on the learning of the pipes to young people,” he says.

Mr Lincoln is in the process of recording his father back in the Solomon Islands in the hope of continuing the tradition for future generations.

Mr Lincoln currently lives with his family on a farm on the West Coast of the South Island.

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