Review | Songlines

Our Island

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★

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Album and Artist Details


Small Island Big Song


Small Island Big Song


When the debut Small Island Big Song album was released in 2018, it was rightly hailed as a mini masterpiece. A true fusion, it blended numerous cultures and musicians from across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, highlighting both their similarities and differences, and successfully relinking the ancient island music of Aotearoa (New Zealand), Taiwan, Madagascar, Hawaii, Solomon Islands, Borneo and beyond in a fresh mesmerising way. This follow-up, again overseen by Australian producer-filmmaker Tim Cole and his Taiwanese producer-partner BaoBao Chen, maintains the creative energy of that original project, albeit with a slightly calmer ambience. Some of their past collaborators are still onboard, including Madagascan multi-instrumentalist Sammy Andriamalalaharijaona (Tarika Sammy), Rapa Nui’s (Easter Island) Yoyo Tuki, Australian-PNG percussionist Airileke and Maori taonga pūoro master Horomona Hora.

New recruits include powerful representation from several female singers – Tahiti’s Vaiteani, Mauritius’ Emlyn – and two fine indigenous Taiwanese vocalists – Putad from the Amis people and Sauljaljui of the Paiwan tribe. With welcoming conch shells, ricocheting pan-oceanic rhythms, and lapping water sounds aplenty, standout tracks include ‘Ta’u Tama’ featuring Vaiteani, Putad and Emlyn’s shared ‘Listwar Zanset’, Sauljaljui’s ‘Madjadjumak’ and Putad’s own ‘Pinagsanga’. An unexpected inclusion is an ensemble cover version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’, but it actually works rather well. Wearing their laudable environmental-cultural justice advocacy firmly on their sleeves, in their own small way the Small Island Big Song team champions a save-the-planet agenda. And while perhaps not quite as unique as their award-winning debut, Our Island keeps those politically-aware Austronesian songlines flowing strong.

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