Himene

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Himene are formal choral Tahitian songs, often of religious nature. Himene is a Tahitian term derived from the English word hymn. The first Western explorer to visit the Society Islands / Tahiti was Wallace, who claimed them for England. The first colonisers and missionaries to the native people were thus English Protestants. Himene are based in verse and harmonic structure on Protestant hymns. 'Words have never succeeded in conveying the impression made by this music. Some have said that it was like an ocean wave coming in with growing strength as the voices increased in intensity, breaking and rolling and bounding and then the dying down and disappearing in a long, sustained note. The women's voices carried the melody while the men provided a deep, rhythmic counterpoint, one of them with a great voice sometimes throwing out cries and appeals. All the people rocked back and forth as they sang, many with their eyes shut, entirely lost in the music.' (Quoting Lebeau, 1911.) from The Island Churches of the South Pacific by Charles W. Forman. Orbis Books, 1982.


A more raucous set of songs is called himene tarava. (See imene tuki and imene metua of the Cook Islands / Rarotonga).