From: Editor, BBC Earth
Published May 6, 2011 10:10 AM

What makes humans special? The Power of communication. New from BBC Earth

A human's need to communicate, can be observed from the first moments of life. The intuitive reaction of a newborn to cry, lays the stepping-stone for a process which at its heart, will enable every human to successfully communicate their experience of being alive.


It has been said that words are man's greatest achievement. With the first utterances of symbolic language emerging 2.5 million years ago, slowly evolved by the first Homo sapiens – the solid foundations of modern articulation have decidedly been set. Yet many would argue that speech and language was developed not out of want, but out of need. Therefore in what ways do humans communicate…without using words?

Music has long been a way of communicating for necessity as well as pleasure. Such as the use of a lullaby to sooth, a folk song to warn and a chant to call to arms! But in what ways do we use rhythm and melody to communicate with nature itself?

In the case of the people of the Banks islands in the South Pacific, it is only by literally playing the water that their message of thanks to the sea can be communicated. Waist deep in water, women and young girls alike will stand side by side and begin to play out a complex set of rhythmic patterns, every one as unique as the female herself.

The human history on these volcanic islands indicates precisely why these rituals still take place. Archeologists have found evidence that this region of the pacific has been inhabited since at least 2000BC! Yet with only 1% land to 99% water, in a climate of volatile cyclone prone in the South Pacific is far from idyllic. But, with the Vanuatu people being listed as the happiest nation on the planet by the Happy Planet Index couldn't have hurt!

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