The Mt Hagen Cultural Show in Papua New Guinea. Photo / 123RF

Want more from your island holiday than just fly ‘n’ flop? Stephanie Holmes finds some memorable music festivals.

1. Mt Hagen Cultural Show, Papua New Guinea

For a unique festival experience, head to Papua New Guinea to experience a “sing-sing”, a gathering of different tribes who demonstrate their distinct culture, dance and music in a riot of sound and colour.


The Mt Hagen Cultural Show is one of the largest sing-sings in PNG, with performances from more than 100 tribes, all dressed in body paint and tribal dress of feathers, leaves, shells and tusks.

Since the first festival was staged in 1964, Mt Hagen has grown to become PNG’s third largest city and the cultural show is the country’s biggest tourist attraction. It is held at the local showgrounds and tribes perform simultaneously – the one that gets the most applause from the crowd wins – so it can be an overwhelming, yet unforgettable, experience.

For anyone concerned about security issues around travelling independently to PNG, some operators offer group tours.

Talk to your travel agent for more information.

2. NiueKulele, Niue

The ukulele is “synonymous with the Pacific”, says Niue Tourism Chief Executive Felicity Bollen, and the instrument’s growing popularity is the inspiration behind the launch of the island’s inaugural music festival, NiueKulele.

Bollen hopes the new biannual festival will draw uke lovers from far and wide. “It’s often called an instrument of joy and love, because its tones make you happy and its music brings people from all walks of life together to celebrate life,” she says.

NiueKulele will feature workshops, live performances, a charity auction and a gala dinner, with performers from Pacific Islands including Niue, Hawaii and Samoa, as well New Zealand’s Paul Jonson, a ukulele musician and tutor.

Weekend ticket packages, including welcome drinks, a local concert, three workshops, a coffee Q&A with performers, the gala dinner and concert, cost $150; casual drop-ins are $20 per person, based on availability.

3. Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival, American Samoa and Samoa

A joint collaboration between the US territory of American Samoa and the independent nation of Samoa, Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival is all about Samoan culture, heritage, the arts and jazz music.

Split between the two nations over two weekends, the aim of Samoana is to draw Samoan musicians, artists and expats home to join the celebrations.

The 2016 programme is yet to be announced, but last year’s event featured an ethnomusicology forum exploring Samoan music over time; music workshops; live jazz, blues, funk, gospel, soul and R&B performances.