News & Views

Melanesian Music Makes Global Scene

From women slapping water rhythms to pidgin-English hip-hop, the sounds coming out of modern Melanesia are as vibrant and diverse as the many peoples that  live there.

Stretching from Papua New Guinea to Fiji, with Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and many small islands in between, Melanesia has more languages than any region on the planet. Now, the global language of music, with a distinctively Melanesian accent, will be accessible to ears around the world, thanks to a new record label called Wantok Musik.

“Music can and has crossed every cultural barrier imaginable and will continue to do so,” the Wantok Musik Foundation, the Austrailia-based non-profit that launched the record label, writes on their website. “There may be different sounds, different beats, different instruments, but we are singing the same things, we are talking with a common language – with one talk.”

Wantok Musik is a labor of love for well-known Melbourne musician and producer David Bridie – a Board Member of the Wantok Music Foundation – who fell under the spell of Melanesian music while touring through the region. Bridie produced the popular Sing Sing concert series, which since the mid 1990s has brought Melanesian music and dance as far as the U.S. Sing Sing, a tok pidgin word meaning a large musical gathering and celebration, is a “state of the art concert performance, presenting traditional, contemporary, choral and stringband music with accompanying visuals and aural soundscapes to capture a sense of place, to take the audience on a Melanesian journey through the landscape and texture of both urban and grass roots village life,” according to David Bridie. The Wantok record label will expand on this theme, and give artists  a vehicle to reach a wider audience.

”Part of the reason for this Wantok label is that there is an amazing abundance at a whole lot of different tiered levels of Melanesian music both traditionally, with string band music, and contemporary music,” Bridie told the Australian news source, The Age. “The dub and reggae and hip-hop music coming out of Melanesia, I think, is very advanced and very idiosyncratic.”

Click here to learn about the artists and preview some Wantok music.