In traditional societies, music, singing, dancing and decoration were associated with festivals and a wide variety of daily activities. People decorated their bodies as well as their bags, weapons, canoes and houses. Dances and songs were handed down from one generation to the next or composed for special events. From the 19th century missions discouraged traditional artistic culture, because much singing, dancing, architecture and sculpture was associated with pagan beliefs. Almost the only artistic activity encouraged by most missionaries was the singing of hymns.
In the 1970s a creative arts movement which included writers, painters, sculptors and musicians was associated with the development of nationalist sentiment in the years preceding Independence. An annual national literature award was established in 1979 to encourage young writers. Most of the writing is in the English language. Writers, musicians and visual artists often blend traditional and Western styles and themes. In the 1980s bands such as Sanguma performed Western style popular music influenced by PNG traditional culture. Indigenous forms of urban popular musice. g., string band music: songs accompanied by guitars and sometimes other instrument shave developed. These are widely disseminated by radio and on cassette tapes. Popular songs are mostly in indigenous languages, including Tok Pisin.