This is the most comprehensive musical portrait ever of life in a Papua New Guinea rainforest community. Three CDs and an 80-page illustrated booklet feature two generations of Bosavi musicaians and twenty-five years of field recordings.
This gorgeous, three-CD boxed set provides the unprecedented opportunity of experiencing pop music at ground zero. The Bosavi people of New Guinea's Southern Highlands were self-sufficient and undisturbed until the incursion of Christian missionaries in the early 1970s. The religious ceremonial songs prohibited by the evangelicals survive in Disc 3: Sounds and Songs of Ritual and Ceremony, collected by field recordist Steven Feld in the 1960s-'70s. Rich with responses to the bountiful natural world around them, the mostly vocal ritual songs include funerary weeping songs and gisalo seance songs. The accompanying 80-page booklet helps put this material in a cultural perspective. At the far extreme are the effervescent compositions by the first-generation string bands who can be heard inventing Bosavi pop music on Disc 1: Guitar Bands of the 1990s. Flush with an out-of-place, almost Appalachian flavor and buzzing with slightly discordant guitar harmonies, the performances are so full of enthusiasm and steely attention to newly emergent craft, it's hard to turn your back on their sheer joy. Disc 2: Sounds and Songs of Everyday Life straddles the religious and entertainment discs with distinctive male and female work songs, including "Men's Vocal Quartet with Seed-pod Rattles," which only needs a guitar arrangement to become the next local pop chartbuster. This disc closes with an intimate 25-minute soundscape of the aural environment of the Bosavi, ripe with bird and insect songs plus noises of villagers at work and play. --Bob Tarte