Refaluwasch and Chamorro Children’s Songs
Music of Resilience, Adaptation, and Identity
By Melanie Hangca
Northern Marianas Humanities Council
Abstract: The importance of an indigenous musical oeuvre in shaping cultural identity is undisputed. However, an informed understanding of our musical history is hampered by both a dearth of surviving pre-war music and by the devastating effects of colonial influence. Researchers have tried to address this problem by preserving what history endures. Much work has been devoted to documenting local music. We lack representation in formal education, both at home and abroad. We also lack public awareness of indigenous stylistic markers. I conducted interviews, obtaining chants, songs, their lyrics, translations to analyze and transcribe, limiting scope to WWII-era children’s songs. I created a multicultural music unit. I found that much music employs adapted melodies, 18th century western European choral tradition, and instruments. I also found that our unique indigenous musical contributions include, lyric improvisation, witty humor, syncopation over duple and triple meter. I presented my findings and shared the unit with various school districts across the country and locally. A second, general public online presentation was received positively, with over a thousand views in 2 days. Overall, I conclude that there is still much work to be done to bridge the knowledge gap about our cultural identity through our musical heritage.