Tonga is probably our favourite place in the world; a gorgeous chain of South Pacific islands with crystal clear turquoise water, white sand beaches, and sweet people. It’s the kind of place that is in your travel dreams.
Tonga: Vava’u Group of Islands
The second island we stayed on was in the Vava’u Group of islands, at Talihau Beach, at Lucky’s Beach Cabins. In Vava’u it was unusually hot, but we had a lovely fale (small house) at the end of a peninsula where there was the perfect cool breeze blowing off the point, and a gorgeous blue lagoon.
Talihau’s Church A Capella
Our cabin was near a traditional Tongan village, Talihau (tallyhow), where we went to one of the churches on Sunday to hear the most amazing male choir you’ve ever heard – a Capella and harmony that sent shivers down your spine as it echoed in the rafters of the open air church.
Talihau Church, Tonga
Invitation To A Kava Ceremony in Talihau
After church, when the men invited us to take part in their Kava Ceremony, we were surprised. Even me – a woman, which was simply not done. This was an all-male ritual.
The men all sit cross-legged, talking and drinking, often well into the night. It doesn’t make them drunk, just sleepy, but it is an important cultural tradition. There is an elaborate ceremonial procedure around the making and pouring of the kava, after which a bowl is passed around to share. The men talk about local events, sports, and politics; they joke and laugh and tell stories. Then they sing.
Second Invitation to a Kava Ceremony
We said how much we enjoyed their music and singing during the Kava Ceremony, so a few days later they invited us to another Kava ceremony to make a tape of their choir.
Sitting cross-legged on the ceremonial tapa mats for several hours was not so delightful as it might sound, but respect was of greatest importance, so we dare not get up. I wriggled and squirmed, changing the position of my legs a dozen times. You can see my legs sticking out in the picture below, when after about two long hours, I could not sit cross-legged any longer. Stoic as always, T did not move from the cross-legged position the entire three hours and could barely walk after – his legs were numb and he was in debilitating pain.
After much discussion and running back and forth, they finally got batteries for the tape player, only to end up getting an extension cord and plugging it in. Only in Tonga!
Unfortunately, the tape we made was not of good enough quality to share with you, but here is a video of the best Tongan Kava Songs, very similar to what we heard:
It was a great honour to be invited to be a part of Kava Ceremony. While there is the local village ritual of a Kava Ceremony several times a week, all important occasions are also marked by a more formal ritual of drinking kava, including weddings, funerals, church-related functions, and royal occasions. A formal kava ceremony is a component of the accession rites for the King of Tonga, to make his rule official.
The Village of Talihau
In this little village of Talihau, the children play, the church bell rings, the men drink kava, the women run things, families have picnics and swim at the beach, and pigs run around everywhere.
Talihau Village – kids playing
Swimming With Pigs
The pigs, just like dogs, go swimming in the ocean with the families on Saturday afternoons – family day.
Check the Kingdom of Tonga Website for more information: http://www.thekingdomoftonga.com/
*This post was first published on Travel To Little Known Places June, 2013