Traditional dancing, singing, music, and cooking styles have been passed down the generations for more than 3,000 years, ever since the first Samoan people arrived on the islands. A fiafia (happy get together) night in Samoa is a chance for everyone to come together and celebrate this heritage with awe-inspiring and interactive displays of music and dance, along with the smells and tastes of a delicious buffet dinner made with fresh local produce.
After a generous buffet dinner, the evening’s entertainment usually begins with women performing the slow and elegant siva dance, before the pace picks up with men performing the spectacular and energetic fa’ataupati (fire knife dance). A fiafia night ends with the taualaga (final dance) which is where guests have the chance to join in and learn a few moves to share with their friends and family.
Traditionally, fiafia nights are held as a public social occasion where different people and groups share food and exchange their performances of music and dance. They’re sometimes held following sporting events, on saints days, and during the Christmas period. Fiafia nights also take place to mark important ceremonial occasions such as award ceremonies, school inaugurations, and weddings.
Fortunately, if your visiting Samoa, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to experience a fiafia night. Many hotels and resorts hold their own fiafia nights for guests, while the Samoa Cultural Village in Apia also holds regular fiafia evenings.
The fa’ataupati is a fast-moving and energetic fire and slap dance performed by men wearing lava lava. During the dance, men will clap, slap, and stomp their feet in sync with one another. The beat of the clapping, slapping, and stomping provides the only music for the dance, making for an impressive display of coordination and strength. The fa’ataupati is traditionally performed on special occasions in Samoa including weddings, church functions, birthdays, and national celebrations.
Traditionally performed by young women, Siva refers to a group of slow and graceful dances designed for storytelling. It usually involves subtle flowing movements of the arms and hands while the dancer appears to glide effortlessly across the floor.
Known as a fire knife dancing, Siva Afi is traditionally performed by young boys or men who twirl a large knife with burning flames around their necks, through their legs and over their bodies to the beat of a wooden drum. The dance was designed to show strength through an exhilarating display of acrobatic tricks and fast-moving flames.
You’ll find a huge feast of delicious food at any fiafia night, most of which will be cooked in a traditional umu – an above-ground oven created with hot volcanic rocks. Typically, meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked in an umu by flavouring them with coconut cream and wrapping them in banana leaves. The fresh and simple flavours created by this ancient cooking style are an absolute must-try experience and will almost certainly leave you wanting to go back for more.
Many hotels and resorts host their own fiafia nights, so it’s a good idea to find out what your resort offers and when before booking your trip. Alternatively, the Samoa Cultural Village in Apia holds regular fiafia nights throughout the week which are open to everyone and free to enter.