“Un Toe” and clapping three times

It is Saturday evening. Since our arrival we have met many people and despite the short time already made friends. One of them is Kabuta, a pastor to be who likes to smoke and drink a beer once in a while and continuously invites us to drink Kawa with him. And today the time has come.

(Written by Viviana Uriona) In advance, we discussed in the group who stays with Maira and Christina agreed to do that, which Mark and me appreciate very much, since we did not want to miss out on such an experience, especially since the Kawa bar is right next to us, barely 200 meters from our house. Kabuta picked us up at 7 pm. First we dined together. Then we got on the way.

The Kawa bar is a simple house. Nondescript. Or not. Only a few hanging strings of lights and flowers make it different from the other houses around. We are the first ones to arrive there. Kabuta and one of the people of the house spread out mats on the ground. Another person starts with the preparation of the drink. We sit in a circle. A plastic bowl with a liquid that looks similar to water-milled healing clay is brought to us and placed in the middle. Also a ladle and plastic cups for everyone. I already start recording the scene with one of our small cameras and will continue to do so in the next hours.

Kabuta explains: at the very beginning of the round, “Un Toe” is called followed by tree claps. Similar as in Germany, drinking cheers are said. The kawa ritual is a tradition from Fiji. The cup is to be emptied in one go. The stuff tastes like it looks, tongue and palate get slightly numb.

The bar fills up. Several groups join in and form new circles. Again and again we hear “Un Toe” … clap, clap, clap. A guitar is brought forward, out of nowhere. With only 5 strings. That’s typical here. Why? We owe you the explanation, but we will find out. One plays. Everyone is singing along, often in polyphonic harmonies. It sounds perfect and yet spontaneous. We play and sing too. A feast.
Hard to describe. Quit an experience.

We look at each other and briefly discuss: the music for the documentary we have found here in any case. Although the Kawa music shall not be heard all the time in the movie, we certainly found the musicians to compose the future soundtrack. Of course we give you a little sample here. But we were not allowed to record much, and only with our camcorder, since we are (still) on vacation.

Update: At that time we didn’t know that we would not be able to implement the project in Kiribati. Later, on the Marshall Islands, we recorded local music there and the soundtrack of the film “One Word” is a mixture of traditional music and the music that musicians from all over the world contributed.

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