Rapa Nui music and dances

easter island music and dances

Most of the Easter Island music and dances are of Polynesian origin. The Rapa Nui ancestral dances have been lost or merged, though it’s still possible to find indigenous music rooted in the orally-transmitted legends that are songs and dances dedicated to the gods, spirit warriors, the rain or love.

Among the most characteristic dances are:


Sau Sau

It is a dance of Samoan origin that came to the island in the 1940s and was modified with Rapa Nui music and lyrics. This dance represents an amorous story on a boat rocked back and forth by the waves, which is represented by undulating movements of hips and hands, especially by women who wear colorful feathers on their clothes. This has become one of the main Rapa Nui dances, a must in any celebration.

Ula Ula

A dance of Tahitian origin, where couples dances separately to a vivid moved rhythm. It also features a soft undulating hip movement, without being provocative. Feet rest alternatively on the heel and the tip of the toes and the movement is accompanied by gentle undulations by the arms.


A predominately male dance, from Tahiti, it is characterized by spectacular stunts and quick and somewhat violent pelvic movements. This dance is very similar to the Hoko, a spirited dance representing warlike activity.

Kai Kai

More than a dance, it is a brief song that accompanies a game of the same name. Through the use of a thread or cord, in various shapes, women tell stories of legends and traditions. It’s all accompanied by slow and undulating body movement.

easter island music and dances

The Rapa Nui have great musical abilities, and the dances are accompanied by ancestral instruments such as the Hio, a type of bamboo flute; or the Kauaha which is a horse jaw that is hit against the floor to make characteristic sounds.

Also, other instruments have been incorporated, like the Ukelele or the Hawaiian guitar, the classic guitar or the Upa-Upa, a type of accordion.