In a slightly lazy way I want to simply paste the official information about this band…
The Black Orchid String Band is made up of West Papuan musicians and activists currently based in Melbourne who use music to maintain the spirit of national unity in the West Papuan struggle for freedom. With an emphasis on rhythmic ukuleles and big harmonies, the group’s music draws on the rich backlog of songs written and archived in the spirit of cultural survival and political expression of West Papua.
The Black Orchid String Band acknowledges the past and present Papuan elders who pioneered in the role of arts and culture through music to inspire us today and future generations.
Being a Yorkshire alien living in rural Wales I have little knowledge of the above and am not the sort of journalist who would regurgitate such insight and pass it off as a review. Better then to paste the truth. What I do know about is how music sounds and indeed am always anxious to rave about something new and exciting that crosses my path. Rave on.
So what we have are a hendectet of musicians primarily on vocals and ukuleles backed with a smattering of guitar, tifa drum and two-string bass. As I read that back it becomes apparent just what a creative and weighted sound this talented eleven (oh THAT’s how many a hendectet is!) create with that relatively conservative box of acoustic tricks, equal respect indeed then to both the performers and arrangers.
The album contains 9 tracks, some original songs, some traditional songs and some penned by others. An unexpected, rather glorious and indeed inspired start to the CD is a rendition of the West Papau Anthem, a prelude to the main event respectfully performed here with guests on violin and cello to get this celebratory album underway.
The Mystery Of Life bounces to life and perfectly sets the scene for the rest of this album with solid rhythmic strums, sweetly picked melodies and heart felt memorable vocals boosted by some delicious harmonies. Melanesian Brother’s Na Sisters and West Papau continues the sound and opens the brand a little further with a little slide guitar and glorious choral vocals. In fact I am very moved with the vocal arrangements with The Black Orchid String Band, effortlessly switching between solo, harmony and choral. Puke Elano is a lovely strummed traditional song with a great guitar solo whilst the pulse of Wa Fa Tia Pirinei is the rhythmic champion of the album. Star is the only song that is sung in English, written by vocalist and ukulele player Rose Turtle Ertler. It’s a delicious twist to the line-up of tunes, a much more contemporary song atop that establish traditional sound. Yako Pamana brings the album to a close with a triumphant and jubilant performance with some magnificent lively strumming and major chord harmony building. A perfect end to this assiduously interesting album.
This is a wonderful CD and I recommend it earnestly. The ukulele is so synonymous with Hawaii that we Westerners perhaps overlook the other music that Polynesia has to offer. I say go forth, indulge, click that buy button and open up a new world of music that you’ve never explored before, The Black Orchid String Band being an inspiring place to begin your journey.
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