Kiribati folk music is mostly centered on chanting or other kinds of vocalization, accompanied by body percussion. In contemporary Kiribati, public performances are usually given by a seated chorus accompanied by a guitar. However, a wooden box is utilized as a percussion instrument during formal performances of the standing dance (Te Kaimatoa) or the hip dance (Te Buki). When hit simultaneously by a chorus of men seated around it, this box produces a hollow and echoing tone. Traditional songs are often about love, but there are also songs about competition, religion, children, patriotism, war, and weddings. Stick dances are often performed to accompany folklore and semi-historical tales. These stick dances, known as “tirere” (pronounced seerere), are only done at big festivals.
When compared to other types of Pacific island dance, Kiribati is distinguished by its focus on the dancer’s extended arms and rapid birdlike movement of the head. This bird-like form of Kiribati dance is represented by the Frigate bird (Fregata minor) on the Kiribati flag. Most dances are performed standing or sitting, with movement restricted and staggered. Smiling while dancing is usually seen as impolite in the context of Kiribati dance. This is because its origins were not simply as a form of entertainment, but also as a kind of storytelling and a showcase of the dancer’s talent, beauty, and endurance.
Kiribati has participated in the Commonwealth Games since 1998, and in the Summer Olympics since 2004. It sent three athletes to their first Olympics, two sprinters and a weightlifter. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, weightlifter David Katoatau won Gold in the 105 kg Group, giving Kiribati its first Commonwealth Games medal.
Kiribati’s national football team is an associate member of the Oceania Football Confederation but not of FIFA, the global football governing body. From 1979 through 2011, it competed in 10 Pacific Games matches, all of which it lost. The Bairiki National Stadium in Kiribati has a capacity of just 2500 people.
The Batio Soccer Field, which is next to the Bairiki National Stadium, is home to a variety of local sports clubs.