Music, singing and dancing are an integral part of Tahitian culture. Traditional Polynesian instruments such as the to’ere drum, the vivo nasal flute, the pu conch and the pounding pahu drum produce the unique, powerful rhythmic sound that exhilarates dancers and spectators alike. This ancestral music accompanies the exotic, sensual dances that transport you back to the very beginning of the ma’ohi civilization.

The Tahitian ‘ukulele

Ukulele player © Hélène Havard

The ‘ukulele was created in Hawaii in the 19th century, as a copy of the small machette guitars brought to the island by Portuguese sailors from Madeira. It was slowly introduced to the rest of the Polynesian triangle and today it is an emblematic instrument of Tahitian music.

Man playing the drum (pahu)© Hélène Havard

The Polynesian drum

The pounding rhythms of the pahu drum give depth and emotion to the music. To make the drum, A large round section of tree trunk is hollowed out and the skin of a shark or goat is stretched tightly over each end. It was used to accompany the dances and chants during ritual ceremonies. The pahu can vary in size, with smaller versions producing a higher pitch, in the same way as a snare drum compared with a big bass drum.

Tahitian dance show © KMH Media Production

Tahitian dance

Tahitian is mainly an oral culture, spread by word of mouth from generation to generation. But another means of transmission of the ancestral culture and traditions is through dance. The graceful, sensual and sometimes erotic mouvements are all precise and have a particular meaning. A music and dance spectacle in The Islands of Tahiti is a magical voyage to the very heart of Polynesian culture.

Learn more about Tahitian dance

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The Tahitian language

Tahiti has a rich and thriving culture of which the language is a vital part. The language is called ‘ma’ohi‘ locally and is spoken by most of the population, along with French. The two local television channels transmit daily news and other programs in the Tahitian language.

Learn the Tahitian lexicon
Portrait d'une danseuse de ori tahiti©_Grégoire Le Bacon
Chanteuse © KMH Media Production

Be inspired


Discover the powerful, thriving ancestral culture of The Islands of Tahiti. Explore the lagoons, mountains and luxuriant valleys. Admire the performances of traditional dancing and singing at Tahitian festivals and ceremonies, and discover the traditional musical instruments that accompany them. Listen to the tales and legends that have been passed down from generation to generation and learn some words and phrases in the Tahitian language. Immerse yourself in our culture and be a part of the Mana of The Islands of Tahiti.

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