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Despite all the suffering that they have borne, the West Papuan people remain remarkably resilient, bonded by the deep community spirit that is so central to their traditional ways of living. Music is the life and soul of West Papua. From the daily eruptions of sound in the jungle through to daybreak when the air is still and you hear the sound of music. Ukulele, guitar, snakeskin drums, bamboo shanks, and the distinct four-part soaring harmonies of the Melanesian Pacific work their way in to the hearts of the people of West Papua, weaving stories, and strengthening the courage of a people determined to be free.

Music and dance has always been a key component in West Papuan culture. In life and in death, ceremonies and in private, music is the binding force amongst the people. Similarly to their bloodline relatives, the Australian Aboriginals, music is regarded by Papuans as a communal resource, with every sound intricately connected with nature and ones environment.

Voice is the key component within West Papuan music. In unison with harmonious acoustic rhythms, West Papuan music is both uplifting and introspective, providing a unique insight into the people and their culture. The lyrics and harmonies celebrate the mystery and natural beauty of Papua, retell traditional legends, impart knowledge and wisdom, lament, laugh, rage, speak about the ordinariness of daily life, and the struggles and joys of relationships.

Although the styles of music differ from coastal communities to those in the highland regions, the main elements remain the same, as do many of the instruments, which are predominately string based. The arrangements are usually based around improvisation.

Papuans are Melanesian (Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western side of the West Pacific to the Arafura Sea, north and northeast of Australia), and their inter-connectedness with the Pacific islanders stretches through to the music they produce too. One such instrument that is common throughout the Pacific is the ukulele. Its introduction to West Papua came in the early part of the 19th century with the arrival of Christian missionaries. Originating from Hawaii where it had been introduced by Portugese immigrants, the ukulele quickly spread to become a popular instrument for Papuans, alongside more traditional instruments like the snake skinned tiva drum (mostly found in music on the south and west coast of the country) and the pingon, a bamboo mouth piece that the user plays through synchronised mouth vibrations. It is not uncommon for people to use bows and arrows, sticks and stones as accompanying instruments in West Papuan music too; anything that can be used from ones environment and is a bearer of sound.