One element of Fijian life that seems to have changed little since the 1800s is the meke, a performing art of dance and song. Legends and tales have been passed down the generations through meke and it remains Fiji’s most prominent form of artistic expression.
Traditionally, music was created only by chanting and rhythmic clapping, often with the addition of a lali (hollowed wood) drum hit with bamboo sticks. More recently the guitar and ukelele have been introduced. Mekes are generally performed by male-only or female-only groups, although a modern introduction, the vakamalolo, combines the two.
At formal mekes, men may perform club and spear dances and the women perform fan dances. In village mekes, the practice of fakawela involves presenting the dancers with a gift in appreciation of their performance, often fine cloth or fabric. At times of weddings or other celebrations bringing two parties together, this usually involves encircling the dancers with long rolls of cloth. Otherwise money is collected as they perform.