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Banaban Dance

PART 2: Music and Choreography for Te Karanga (Banaban War Dance)

By Stacey KingPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 3 min read
Banaban men and women performing Te Karanga dance Banaba (Ocean Island) 1932

Part Two: Choreography including the Music Phrase and Counts for the Emananga Emanangananga - A Dance Inciting Warriors to Battle [1]

The chant Emananga emanangananga is part of a much longer chant used in the historic Te Karanga. It is a preface to war. Among its cries is IA IA E MATE (the enemy is already dead). This shows that it probably has been used as a coercive chant that will bring victory to the Banaban against their enemies.

Te Karanga, a chant which is an epic story, is danced today with long staves. It is believed to be extremely old. Both men and women now take part. It has very intricate beats in the clashes of the dancers’ staves as the lines of performers flow past, around and through each other.

This dance was performed by the Banaban Dancing Group at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in Australia 1973. The following information was gathered by Beth Dean and published by the Sydney Opera House Trust.

Music and Count with Dance Steps

Tawaka Tekenimatang Famous Banaban Choreographer, Composer and Dance Leader [2]

Tawaka Tekenimatang is a revered Tetia Kaeni Kamaen, or choreographer. This title is achieved only after long discipline and difficult taboos. His status has about it the aura of the supernatural, as such one is said to have powers of doing evil if you harm him but he also can use studies and powers for healing purposes.

Tawaka did no choreography until after the age of 30. He says that he creates his dances solely from 'just concentrating'. Tawaka was born in Uma Village on Banaba (Ocean Island) on December 27, 1912. Tawaka is both Director and choreographer of the Banaban Dancers.

Tawaka Tekenimatang (kneeling left), composer and leader of the Banaban Dancing Group called NEI KATANOATA Rabi 1946. Frank Christopher Collection 1946

In the photograph supplied by Banaban, Frank Christopher of the Nei Katanoata Dancing group dated Rabi, 1946, Frank wrote the following inscription dated 1993:

"Many in the photo have died including TAWAKA and the present group of dancers and singers are of the younger Rabi generation.

The present-day group has changed in style using the modern music of sophisticated musical instruments but retained some of the old Banaban historical and cultural songs and dances."

Banaban Dancing Group Rabi, 1992. Stacey King Collection

Banaban Dance Lives On

The photograph of the Banaban Dancing Group taken on Rabi, 1992 is the 4th generation of the group. Originally founded by respected Elder - Tawaka Tekenimatang as the Nei Katanoata Dancing Group, in the early 1940s. It would become known as Banaban Dancing Group.

Performance Banaban students University South Pacific performing Te Karanga USP, Suva Fiji 2007.


"Among the Banaban people in Rabi island l wish to thank, in particular, the members of the Rotan family and the distinguished Fetia léaeni Kamaen, (the choreographer) Tauaka Tekenimatan, Makin Corrie Tekenimatang and Teena, both of whom translated for me, the members of the Banaban Dancing Club and all the many people whose warmth and kindness have been so encouraging during each of my four sojourns amongst them." Beth Dean

PART ONE: Words of "Emananga Emanangannga" Men’s War Chant for Te Karanga (Banaban War Spear) Dance


1. Original copyright: The Banaban Dancing Club for whom Tawaka Tekenimatang is Choreographer.

2. Excerpt: ‘Three Dances of Oceania’ by Beth Dean, First Published: ‎Sydney Opera House Trust. January 1, 1976. Translation by Makin Corrie Tekenimatang.

Get the Book!

Read more about Banaban traditional dance and the epic history of Banaba (Ocean Island) and the Banaban people (The Forgotten People of the Pacific) as they try and seek justice to save their island, their culture, their future, "Te Rii ni Banaba- backbone of Banaba" by Raobeia Ken Sigrah and Stacey M King, available on Amazon here.


About the Creator

Stacey King

Stacey King, a published Australian author and historian. Her writing focuses on her mission to build global awareness of the plight of the indigenous Banaban people and her achievements as a businesswoman, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

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