Blessed with stunning natural beauty and unique cultures, the islands of the South Pacific have long symbolized paradise on Earth to outsiders. Of course, life is more complicated than travel brochures and Gauguin paintings would lead one to believe. The people of the South Pacific, like elsewhere, struggle with the impact of modernization and are fighting to revitalize and redefine their traditions before they disappear.
Both Telek and O-shen come from Papua New Guinea, a tropical archipelago of dense rainforests and active volcanoes. Telek combines ancient Tolai traditions and contemporary Western music without compromising his native culture. O-shen, the son of American missionaries who was raised in a remote Papuan village, fuses traditional Pacific music with hip-hop and reggae.
OK! Ryos and Gurejele are leading figures in New Caledonias Kaneka movement, a unique music that blends local polyphonic singing styles and traditional rhythms of the Kanak culture with pop and world beat flavors.
Te Vaka, a New Zealand-based band with members from across Oceania, is creating a pan-Pacific pop music that incorporates elements from a variety of cultures into an appealing fusion. Fellow New Zealander Whirimako Black endeavors to bring Maori music, culture, and language to a broader audience.
Finally, from far-off Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island, comes Matatoa. Their native language is now spoken by less than 3000 people and is blended here with an upbeat, cross-cultural mix of music.
This enhanced CD features an OK! Ryos music video filmed on the picturesque beaches of New Caledonia, as well as informative liner notes in English, Spanish, and French, striking Lonely Planet photographs and the recipe of a traditional South Pacific dish.
Bring up the subject of Polynesian music to most Americans and they might mention Hawaiian slide-guitars and ukuleles, the hula or perhaps slack-key finger-picking. But Hawaii is a mere pin-spot within Oceania, a huge area consisting of more than of 25,000 islands that are in turn subdivided into regions known as Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia. As well, there are the related native cultures of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Many of the traditions seem to share a passion for melody which is often expressed via exquisite close-harmony singing. The songs on this collection, while contemporary, bear out this reputation for fine vocals. But the selections are otherwise quite varied, ranging from Auckland New Zealand-based Whirimako Black's Sade-like delivery, to Gurejele's sun-drenched, almost South African-sounding vamps, to the glistening, multi-layered pop of Papua New Guinea's O-Shen. The enhanced CD features a video of Co Era So
by OK! Ryos. --Christina Roden