Last month Tonga’s late Queen Sālote Tupou lll was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Pacific Music Awards in Auckland, New Zealand. The award will be posthumously presented at the 15th awards ceremony. Queen Sālote has been described as a gifted composer who composed over 100 songs, lullabies, laments and dances.
The Pacific Music Awards Trust said it acknowledged Queen Sālote’s huge contribution to the preservation and creative use of the Tongan language and recognized her as a celebrated writer of poetry and song. The Trust said her compositions continue to inspire a new generation today.
MIT Pasifika Academic Partner, Edmond Fehoko is a proud Tongan and has enjoyed Queen Salote’s music throughout his life. “What I enjoy most about Queen Salote is how in-depth her lyrics are. She used a level of language that is not common today and we have begun attempts to bring that back. I am also amazed at the journey she went through from earlier tragedies in her life to the regal celebrations of her successful reign,” he said.
There was a special collaboration tribute to the late Queen during awards night. Queen Sālote’s grandchild, Princess ‘Ofeina ‘e he Langi Fakafānua accepted the award on her behalf. “She possessed unrivalled knowledge of genealogies, traditions of Tongan customs and a strong sense of duty and love for her people of Tonga, which also meant strong connections and responsibilities to the South Pacific region, Princess ‘Ofeina said.
Today, many Tongan performing groups, string bands and Kava circles still continue to celebrate Queen Salote’s compositions and last year’s ASB Polyfest was dedicated to showcasing works only from Her Majesty’s collection. Princess ‘Ofeina said, “Her compositions of Tongan music continue to inspire a new generation, now aware of our rich past and to our shared futures.”
A little about Queen Sālote…
Princess Sālote was born on 13 March 1900 in Tonga as the only child of King George Tupou II of Tonga and his second wife, Queen Lavinia. Queen Lavinia died of tuberculosis on 25 April 1902. Her father was urged to remarry in order to father a male heir, and he finally did so on 11 November 1909. He married 16-year-old Anaseini Takipō and together they had two daughters, one who died of convulsions at the age of six months and one who died of tubercular peritonitis at the age of 20.
At the age of 9, she was sent to live in Auckland in New Zealand for her education. She stayed for five years and only returned to Tonga for the Christmas holidays. It wasn’t until 1914 she was considered the heir as by now the hopes of the Queen producing a male heir were low. She married Viliami Tungī Mailefihi on 19 September 1917, and they had three children together, including the future King Tāufa‘āhau Tupou IV. She also suffered three miscarriages. His high status (he was the heir presumptive before Sālote’s birth) made the match very popular.
She succeeded her father as Queen on 5 April 1918, just barely 18 years old. Her coronation took place on 11 October of the same year. Her husband served as her prime minister from 1923 until his death in 1941. Sālote attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 in her first and only visit to Europe.
Sālote died on 16 December 1965 after a long illness. She was succeeded by her son as King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV. She was buried at Mala‘e Kula, the royal burial grounds in Tonga.