18 May 2019

Small Island Big Song: uniting indigenous musicians from across the Pacific

From RNZ Music, 3:30 pm on 18 May 2019

Small Island Big Song is an album that unites indigenous musicians from seafaring cultures across the Pacific & Indian Oceans.

All the songs were recorded in nature, using traditional instruments and languages, creating a contemporary and relevant musical statement in the face of climate change.

Small Island Big Song was conceived by Australian music producer and film director Tim Cole (ex Not Drowning Waving) and his Taiwanese partner, producer BaoBao Chen.

They embarked on a three year journey following the voyages of ancient oceanic seafarers who traced the ocean currents and seasonal winds dating back over 5,000 years, to and from the island now known as Taiwan.

Small Island Big Song member Charles Maimarosia (Solomon Islands)

Small Island Big Song member Charles Maimarosia (Solomon Islands) Photo: Small Island Big Song

Small Island Big Song member Koyawa (Bougainville New Guinea)

Small Island Big Song member Koyawa (Bougainville New Guinea) Photo: Small Island Big Song


Along the way Tim and Bao Bao recorded and filmed over a hundred indigenous musicians playing only traditional instruments in their natural habitats across 16 islands of the Pacific & Indian Oceans.

From the Dayak people’s Sape' recorded in the rainforests of Sarawak with a Papua New Guinean bamboo ensemble on a remote Bougainville beach, from the Māori taonga pūoro recorded in the last strand of Aotearoa’s native forest mixed with Taiwanese Indigenous harmonies, from Rapa Nui’s Jaiwaian reggae set among standing stones playing with an uplifting Kompang group from Singapore!

Small Island Big Song makes a musical statement that also draws attention to Climate change and rising ocean levels, which will potentially result in human displacement.

Last week Small Island, Big Song was awarded as the Best Asia/Pacific Album of 2019 at the Songlines Music Awards in the UK.

Tim and Bao Bao wrote on Facebook "This award is for the artists, and the music itself is a gift to all fighting the good fight for our small island earth."

Worlds of Music presenter Trevor Reekie spoke to Small Island Big Song producers Tim Cole and BaoBao Chen.

Here are some of the songs that resulted. You can find more from Small Island, Big Song on YouTube

Naka Wara Wara To'o ft' Charles Maimarosia

“If you hear an Are’Are song you can feel and see how long it has been there. The songs are documents of who we are, the only gift our ancestors gave us." Charles Maimarosia.

Are'Are title: Naka Wara Wara To'o / English title: I’m shooting these prophetic words to you

Composer: Charles Maimarosia, Language: Are’Are from The Solomon Islands, Nature sound: Rainforest in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

ALIE SIKE ft' Ben Hakalitz & Koyawa

Song Dedication: For our mangroves. Mangroves are one of the Earth’s most precious but maligned environments. Koyawa sings and dances, celebrating his mangrove coastline. Mangroves capture twice to four times as much CO2 per sq. m than any other environment.

Composer & Lyrics: Ben Hakalitz & Koyawa, Language: Selau Bougainville, Nature sound: Mangroves, Buka island, Bougainville.

Senasenai a Mapuljat ft' Siao-Chun Tai

Song Dedication: For our living ocean. 70% of the earth’s surface, one ocean touching every shore, and to the great ocean currents, regulating the planet’s climate and providing a highway for the seafarers.

Featured Artist: Siao-Chun Tai, Paiwan, Taiwan - Lead vocals/Composer, with Horomona Horo, Maori, Aotearoa/New Zealand - Putatara & Purerehua, and many more musicians.

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