Then and Now: West Papua Art, Music, and Dance

Explore The West Papua Asmat Museum with Numerous Art and Cultural Pattern

Traditional West Papua Art has always captivated the hearts of tourists visiting the city with the nickname of the exotic Little Paradise. From musical instruments to traditional dances, here is information about various conventional and modern Papuan arts.

Then and Now: West Papua Art, Music, and Dance

Traditional West Papua Art

  • Tifa Musical Instruments 

The fame of Tifa’s musical instruments has made this traditional Papuan art a hallmark of the region. Tifa is a musical instrument made of wood that perforate and uses dry deer skin on one end of the log. 

This drum-like instrument is played by hitting it and is often used to accompany war dances. For its kind, Tifa has five different types of musical instruments with equally good sound results.

Starting from Tifa Jekir, Tifa Bas, Tifa Jekir Cut, Tifa Cut, to Tifa Basic.

  • Butshake Musical Instruments 

A traditional party’s dance accompaniment music is out of Butshake instruments. Originally from Muyu, Merauke Regency. This conventional West Papua Art is considered unique because of its shape made of walnuts and bamboo.

Not only is the shape unique, but the Butshake also makes a distinctive sound, like the gurgling of water when swung by hand. The cause is the friction between the walnuts and the bamboo in this musical instrument.

  • Fela Mandu Dance

Unlike the Sajojo Dance, the following traditional Papuan art defined as a war dance is the Fela Mandu Dance. In Central Sentani, Papua, Puyo Kecil is the origin of this dance.

The Sekori, Sebeya, and Sewiron tribes from the Abar area, Central Sentani, are supposed to have inspired the Sekori, Sebeya, and Sewiron tribes to develop the Fela Mandu dance, which is credited to the ancestors, the Amatali, Putali, and Abar people. Currently, the dance is only a symbolic way to honor the ancestors. 

  • Musyoh Dance 

Another traditional Papuan art included in the dance category is Musyoh Dance. This dance is one of the sacred dances in Papua, with the average dancer being a group of men.

Musyoh dance means to drive away the spirits that wander due to the deadly accident he experienced. According to Papuan tribal beliefs, someone who dies due to a collision or accident must not be able to leave peacefully.

Therefore, sacred dances such as Musyoh Dance are needed to help expel and calm the spirit. Dancers wear Kotekas, tassel skirts, and shields to perform this dance. Then for the musical accompaniment, is to use Tifa.

Traditional and Western Music in West Papua Art 

Traditional Papuan music and songs closely relate to their customs, beliefs, and religion. A saying of Biak people in the past, “Nggowor Ba Ido, Na Nggomar,” literally means “If we don’t sing, we will die.” Traditional songs tell many things about Papuan human life, from birth and growth to death.

  • Period 1775-1929 

A new chapter of dynamic modern music encourages Papuans to update and learn to play new sounds that they have never heard before. It is impossible to separate the influence of European settlers in Papua from the evolution of current music.

A British sailor observed the Doreri people, took out the “German Flute,” and played it. Music has ingrained in Papuans since birth so that they can learn it quickly in the future. In 1923, IS Kijne began teaching Papuan children to learn to play music in Mansinam. 

  • Period 1930-1950s

In the 1930s, in the deer town of Merauke, a musical group called Okaba Jazzband formed by natives revitalized the city. The popularity of this music group is local because the Papuan people do not know it in various places. In the same year, the musical group Muyu Hawaiian Orchestra appeared, which was quite popular then.

  • Period 1960-1970s

The 1970s was the year the world founded the Papuan spirit in West Papua Art and music. The most famous Papuan band in the national and even global music scene is the Black Brothers. There are bands Nada Ria, Brimorelas, Suara Baru, and a Hawaiian group in Hollandia (Jayapura) under Izak Samuel Mimi Fatahan.