Words by Seth Jordan
Melanesian panpipes in overdrive
Solomon Islands’ ensemble Narasirato may be panpipers, but forget any notion that this nine-piece group plays some sort of Melanesian version of Andean mountain music or Gheorghe Zamfir’s kitschy Romanian panpipe tunes. While the bamboo instruments are intrinsic to many cultures, in the hands of these ’Are’are tribesmen – who hail from Oterama village on the island of Malaita – the humble panpipes are used to express daily village life in a highly energetic, rhythmic way. Known for their lively performances, the Narasirato mob’s array of hand-held pipes are augmented by thumping basslines, generated from giant artillery-like bamboo thong-o-phones and stomping tubes.
Recorded in Amsterdam, a few of the tracks were originally heard on Narasirato’s 2007 debut release Naratana Hiona and their 2011 live EP Tangio Tuma. Working their way through breathy renditions of both traditional and original songs, these fit farmers and fishermen of the Maniharu clan sing of ethnic tensions between tribes (‘Hariharina’), settlement of land ownership disputes (‘Mato Are Inau’), and logging damage to the fragile Solomons environment (‘Rawako’). There are also grandmother laments and lullabies, and a song of respect for the village elders (‘Mane Paina’). With nearly 1,000 islands in the Solomons archipelago, almost 87 languages, and differing regional music styles, Narasirato’s spirited displays of ’Are’are culture offers a window into this intriguing Pacific nation. Right now, they’re the hottest band in the Pacific.
Listen to a choice track from Warato’o on the Top of the World CD included with the current issue (#84 June 2012).