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The Matua’s Song

A Musico-Linguistic Approach to Decolonizing Chamorro Music History

By Michael Clement, Sr.


Having been the first Pacific Island that Magellan set foot on in 1521, and being the only island stopover for the Manila Galleons, Guam has benefitted from early documented impressions of its ancient music. Spanish colonization/ missionization began in 1668. One pre-contact ceremonial song was observed and was notated by the Jesuits. It’s pre-Chamorro origins have remained unknown until now. When played on indigenous instruments, the melody gives a general Indonesian feeling. The lyrics are in the Chamorro language. Ethnomusicology articles on Java and Sumatran music customs give some relevant word meanings. Further research into Indonesian verb formations revealed one word that connects Chamorro and Indonesian betel nut traditions; it confirms the ceremonial nature of the Chamorro song and connects the Chamorro song to Indonesian origins, c. 700-1000 CE. This conclusion is supported by current Chamorro DNA results and migration, the archeology of the Chamorro latte stone, Indonesian rice, Chamorro linguistics, herbal medicine and ancient social custom. It provides a factual basis for ancient Chamorro music history and for further research in authentic music and dance.