Music of Easter Island

Rapanui Music

The ancient Rap Nui culture is still alive as is evidenced today by the traditional and contemporary songs and melodies.

This ancient culture is kept alive by the music and songs still sung today , working together to promote its destiny, its attractive values. It is a style of music that combines the songs (riu) of the Ancients with themes of various places of the world. Music (peho) is essential to Rapa Nui life and is used in all important activities: rituals, deaths, the preserving of legends and much more.


Ramon Campbell has divided the evolution of the music of the island into four stages. The first two are classified by Campbell as old music, and the remaining two as different forms of modern music.

The first stage begins in old times of which many of the riu (songs) were lost. The little that is known is that songs were sung a capella. In 1864 the missionaries came to the island. Their arrival marks the second stage because they were "the first external influence on the song." (Campbell, 227). The missionaries used music to integrate the Rapanui into the catholic religion and thus to christianize them. The catholic songs were translated into Rapanui.

In the 1800s the people of the island really began to communicate and to establish permanent connections with the rest of the world. This communication indicates the beginning of modern music. The third stage is distinguished by the music interchanged with Tahití. Campbell explains that the influence of Polynesia changed the music from songs that were just sung, into songs that were danced.

The last stage began when more international melodies began to arrive at the island.... Creole, Mexican and North American music are some of the few that have influenced the musicians of Rapa Nui.


Every year a Festival of Song is organized, in low season, (months of winter), whose purpose is to rescue and promote the cultural and musical traditions of Rapa Nui, also giving a space to modern creation. This event is organized by a group of local artists, "Mana Tupuna".