Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Field recording from old Oceania: A Souvenir of Fiji - Tamavua Village Singers (197?)

Due to their proximity, there are a lot of folk recordings from the islands of the Pacific to be found in Australian charity and secondhand shops. Some of them are great; many are forgettable. I really like this EP because it’s a field recording of the performers in their traditional setting. It was recorded in a bure (a Fijian wood and straw hut) in Tamavua by one James Siers. You can hear the crickets buzzing in the background and it has genuinely captured a certain sound and place. 

This is also an interesting recording as in addition to four traditional Fijian compositions there is a rendition of Twelfth Street Rag, an old Tin Pan Alley standard. The aforementioned tune is played with hacky gusto by the guitarist - or is it a ukelele? - without any accompaniment by the vocalists. 

I wanted to create a new label for categorising recordings from this part of the world. I assumed that Fiji would be in Polynesia, but it is in fact part of Melanesia along with New Guinea and associated islands. I’ve since ran with Oceania which is the most all encompassing term for this region, although this also apparently includes Australia. (I don’t think this inclusion makes for a particularly meaningful term. Australia is too culturally overbearing to be included in the more modest nations of the Pacific and should probably be left out of any such definitions.)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Incidentally, this record was released by Hibiscus Records, a subsidiary of Kiwi Records. I am very interested in any releases from either of these labels, both of which specialised in indigenous musics, field recordings and other wonderfully esoteric materials from Oceania and New Zealand respectively.

Label: Hibiscus Records
Released: I really have no idea. Probably 1970s.
Players: Samu Loki
Malakai Niubasaga
Semesa Lewai
Aca Tomasi
Bulewa Vilitati


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A beautiful sixties Greek soundtrack: Hellespontus - Stavros Xarcharkos (1966)

This is a classy set of original Greek folk music from 1966 composed by Stavros Xarcharkos. The dominant presence of the bouzouki on most tracks lends the album a strong Greek, traditional feel, but there is a welcome addition of unorthodox tones for this style of music such as electric guitar and glockenspiel. As the liner notes say, Xarcharkos has a ‘talent for blending unusual instrumentation with the warm melancholy of beautiful songs’. There’s a lot of range here, from slow, spooky bazouki numbers such as Horos Tou Sakaina - which when I first heard it, I was sure was the source material for Secret Chief’s 3’s Ship Of Fools* - to fast, odd-metred folk dances like Fos Tis Avgis and Ipomoni.

This LP was originally released in 1966, but was reissued in 1972 when one of the tunes was appropriated as the theme song to the successful BBC drama series The Lotus Eaters. It is from this reissue that this rip was made, which I was fortunate enough to find at the Phillip Island Vinnies Store.

*It's probably not.

Label: EMI
Released: Originally 1966, this reissue sometime after 1972.