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SONGS OF THE VOLCANO
SONGS OF THE VOLCANO
CD Review: SONGS OF THE VOLCANO
Bob's Melanesian Marinade
(5 Stars / 'Top of the World')
By JANE CORNWELL
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The guitar nearly bypassed Papua New Guinea. When it finally arrived, one of the rare benefits of colonialism, it was seized upon by islanders who adapted it accordingly: strumming it ukulele-style, inventing unique basslines, playing in unison or solo, adding a bit of slide here, a single note accent there. Their tuning was light and airy, five-key and open, an island sound vaguely reminiscent of early Hawaiian music but – this being Melanesia, not Polynesia – setting its own precedents as well. Over in the remote, hard done by province of East New Britain, battered by war and the eruptions of the volcano that looms over its capital, Rabaul, the Tolai people formed stringbands and sang high, happy harmonies to help forget their woes.
Into this fraught paradise stepped ethnomusicologist and guitar superstar Bob Brozman, an enabler in the way that, say, David Bridie was for Telek or Peter Gabriel for a host of world musicians – and a man with the energy and organisational skills of 20. Here Brozman assumes a co-producing role, supporting an array of stringbands with instrumental backing, equipment (including much needed guitar strings) and recording advice. And so we have the Gilnata Stringband, with ten vocalists, fewer instruments and a bluesy sound; the Fiji-leanings of the Eagle Voice Band; the north coast’s Lions 2000 Stringband and Drop Sun Band, their guitars outnumbering their singers. Knowledgeable liner notes and an accompanying DVD from consultant and filmmaker Phil Donnison make this both a pleasurable and an educational experience.
Much of this music is recorded here for the first time. Each member of every stringband gets an equal share of royalties – the hibiscus behind the ear of what is truly a special project.
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Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar
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