July 5, 2011

healing, feasting and magical ritual ~ songs and dances from Papua New Guinea

The music is predominantly vocal, songs of hunting, war, totemistic ritual, cannibalism, myths, initiation, courtship, rain-making, funerals, magical healing, shark-catching and marathon feasting. Many are danced, accompanied by percussion instruments (the garamut slit drum, kundu hourglass-drum, launut friction drum, shell rattles), lengths of bamboo end blown to give a single pitch, and bamboo flutes. The rhythms can be forceful or trance-like, and are a mix of simple repetitions of regular patterns with more complex ideas. The vocalisation of songs, normally full-throated and open, and usually sung by groups in unison, is rich and vibrant.

The recordings were made by John Thornley, who for many years was a senior producer of world music programmes for BBC Radio 3. They are impeccable. In this guise, as intrepid explorer, Thornley travelled in Papua New Guinea between August and October 1987, funded by a bursary from the Commonwealth Relations Trust. He lodged his recordings with the International Music Collection of the British Library's National Sound Archive (collection C838), and this album, part of the IMC series issued with Topic, samples the collection. 

The five regions represented are: Karkar Island, a volcanic island of copra plantations and fishing villages off the northern coast of New Guinea; the remote Green River, a tributary of the upper Sepik River in New Guinea proper, an area renowned for its legendary mosquitoes; the densely populated Wahgi Valley at Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands; New Ireland, the northeastern island first 'discovered' in 1516 by the Dutch; the Gazelle Peninsula to the East of the 500km-long New Britain. Each region has distinct and fascinating traditions.

1 Garamut Call
2 Mukoa Silali
3 Kanam Dance
4 Birua (Warrior Song After Killing)
5 Healing Songs
6 Two Healing Songs: Kua Kua! The Bird Of Paradise Is Singing / Let Us Kill A Pig And Put The Blood On Our Sick Friend's Wound
7 Women's Sago Song
8 Healing Song About Lake Kanary
9 Healing Song
10 Feast Song
11 Three Eevil - (Children's Healing Songs)
12 Hunting Song of the Moge & Kopi Clans
13 Women's Song of the Moge & Kopi Clans
14 Sing-Sing, Western Highlands
15 Two Songs of Love & Courtship
16 Bayer River Sanctuary
17 Pur
18 Bot - Malanggan Funeral Ceremony
19 Friction-Drum & Song on the Death of a Chief
20 Getting on a Lorry
21 Shark-Calling Song
22 Two Slit-Drum Improvisations
23 Rongari
24 Fire Dance

Magic ritual 

thanks to the always present Arvind and to a kind soul out there

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