KALW’s Folk Music & Beyond, 7/29/18
In a project that took over three years to record, we hear ancient songs and contemporary voices that have been brought together in Small Island Big Song. Having just performed at SXSW, the musicians are touring Europe and points west.
In our first hour, we hear this ambitious musical journey recorded on 16 different islands across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. We’ll hear the very best indigenous musicians from Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Aotearoa, Hawai`i, Singapore, The Torres Strait, and Tahiti. This project gives voice to a vast region that is largely overlooked or seen only in clichés or stereotypes.
We hear beautiful collaborations between many musicians in a region on the frontline of global environmental habitat destruction. Ironically, these island people–who best know how to live a sustainable lifestyle–will be the first to have their islands flooded by rising seawater.
Because the producers of this project saw the coming crisis for these islanders, Australian filmmaker Tim Cole and Taiwanese project manager BaoBao Chen, put together all kinds of creative funding to realize the project. Their production manifesto is just the kind of thing we look for:
- all traditional instruments are used
- artists record in nature in their homeland
- no digital effects or samples are used
- Each artist contributes songs, and also adds to other artist’s songs
- artists decide what and where they record
- 50% of project profits go to the musicians and their communities: pono!
We start out with a traditional opening chant sung on a headland in Taiwan, where seafarers may well have left over 5,000 years ago, before the Egyptians built the pyramids, to settle many other islands.
Next, a song celebrating the unity of island culture with sounds of Rapa Nui, Easter Island.
Then from the Mozambique Channel, Madagascar, we’ll hear instruments made of driftwood that washed up on the beach. Amazingly, it all works perfectly.
Various artists/Senasenai A Mapuljat; Ka Va’ai Mai Koe; Hisoma Sa Ts Hisoma A / Small Island Big Song /self released cd
Look at YouTube “small island big song” to see clips.
Various Artists/ Gasikara; Naka Wara Wara To’o, Rim Rim Siag/ Small Island Big Song
Pemung Jaw; Manu Koroki; Mele O Ke Kipuka/ Small Island Big Song
Alie Sike; Sacanoy; Fafy Rano / Small Island Big Song
Dewi Sri; Kwin Potutu; Omby / Small Island Big Song
In our last set from Small Island Big Song, a musical journey around the Pacific and Indian Ocean cultures, we find Kekuhi Keali`i Ka-naka-ole o Hali`li lani with a sacred song as part of a ceremony she performed at dawn on the rim of Kilauea Volcano. It is a mele to the goddess Pele who created those islands, a mele she is the guardian of, passed on by her grandmother, Edith. It is the most ancient of the hula meles. It carries an ineffable knowledge of a time long past.
Next, from the Truku people of Taiwan, we hear jaws harps from many of the islands…it turns out that people from lots of the islands play them. This was the largest collaboration in the project. Everybody wanted to join in.
And finally, we go to a repise with everybody from the project taking part…about uniting people from all the different islands.
Ke Ha’a La Puna; Uyas Gerakun; Ka Va’ai Mai Koe (Reprise) / Small Island Big Song
Do a search on YouTube “Small Island Big Song” for lots of video of this project and these performances!
Now for some other selections that go well with what we have heard.
George Kahumoku, Jr. / Pele hula lesson / recorded in Paia Maui 7/14/18 by Sandy Miranda GK played Hawaiian guitar for Edith Kanakaole, whose granddaughter we heard earlier.
Telek (PNG) / Abede / South Pacific Islands / Putumayo
Te Vaka (Tokelau, Samoa, NZ) / Haloa Olohega / South Pacific Islands / Putumayo
O-shen (PNG, Hawaii) / Siasi / South Pacific Islands / Putumayo
The Wagi Brothers Bamboo Band (PNG) / Musical Mariner Pacific Journey / Mercury
Tahiti Fete / Heiva I Tahiti / Musical Mariner / Mercury