Nauru: Independent since 1968. In need of tree planters since 1978.
You can circle the island of Nauru in about 30 leisurely minutes by car. Yet the world’s smallest independent republic faces some big world problems. The slow-motion threat of rising sea levels, rampant obesity, poverty, a controversial refugee detainment centre… A far cry from the roaring 70s, when vast phosphate deposits (a.k.a. bird poop) made Nauruans some of the wealthiest islanders in the world.
But humans tend to bounce back, and here we cheer for Nauru! Discover some far-out sounds that span both the ups and downs :
If all the kids are like this little unnamed artist, we can only assume that there’s a bright future ahead for Nauru. Environmentalism, killer hooks, and amazing special effects all rolled into one… also no doubt the lyrics are uplifting and amazing:
Deeper than the Himalayan Mountains are tall, the Mariana Trench is the most mysterious, wettest corner of our incredible planet. And the Northern Mariana Islanders call this place their backyard. If you ever get a chance, you gotta try the fish and chips..
Dragonfish smiling for camera
In a bizarre chain of historical events, this far-flung chain of islands has at various points been under Spanish, German, Japanese, and American control. And if you want United States citizenship, just go there to get born!
“House of Taga” on Tinian Island. What ancient wizards built this?
Despite a rapidly growing immigrant population (particularly Filipino), the music of the Mariana Islands remains deeply rooted in the native Chamorro language and culture. Easy-going vibes and beautiful melodies abound, in a tongue that seems to be a lovely hybrid of Micronesian and Spanish. Can you get any smoother?!
Tambien, the first hour’s Global Mix:
Nope, we aren’t worshiping at the altar of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (mad respect to all Pastafarians) – we are tripping to the Federated States of Micronesia, a scatter-shot nation founded in 1979 by the (figurative) joining of four discrete island-states in the west Pacific. It is a place of tropical dreamscapes, floating on the fringes of the global radar and quite worthy of an authentic exploration.
Check out Chuuk– the most highly populated state in FSM with a whopping 48,000 human inhabitants. Encircled by 225 km of coral reefs, it is one of the largest lagoons in the world:
Chuuk Lagoon – Paradise Protected
As you might expect from such an idyllic setting, the music of FSM is laid-back and smooth-like. Most modern sounds are influenced by reggae and synth-pop, usually in tandem. I can’t quite figure out why Pacific Islanders are so fond of digital drums and auto-tuned vocals, but it sure makes for ultra positive island vibes. For all I known, they may actually be allergic to minor keys.
Sidenode: each of the four states in FSM – Chuuk, Yap, Pohnpei, and Kosrae – has their own indigenous language, and the locals still identify more with their own islands’ culture than with the nation-state that unifies them… something to keep in mind if your search for ‘Federated States of Micronesia music’ ends in a cul-de-sac.
And hay, happy Year of the Horse! (courtesy of the swingin’ 60s)
Presenting ancient music of the future! This week we are joined in the studio by musical mastermind John Oliver, composer and guitarist in Vancouver’s magically sublime Big World Band. We discuss the inception of this renegade project, the balance between tradition and innovation, and the spectral journey into cultural cross-pollination. John also presents live recordings from recent performances, describing how the songs were carved into existence.
Hear the interview here.
CATCH BIG WORLD BAND LIVE AT THE MASSEY THEATRE THIS SATURDAY!
Next, we take a trip to the Micronesian nation of Kiribati, a lovely scatter-shot of islands (atolls, to be precise) in the west central Pacific Ocean. Kiribati’s days are numbered, as it will be one of the first countries to be swallowed up by rising sea levels. I suppose Kevin Costner may be a prophet after all..
But the music and people of Kiribati will live on (possibly in Fiji). Unexplored by Europeans until 1892, Kiribati’s music is uniquely unaffected by external influence. As far as we can tell, the i-Kiribati (strangest demonym ever – seemingly sponsored by Apple) have no traditional musical instruments. But they discovered long ago that the bare body makes a thumpin’ percussion sound when combined with high-octane group chanting! Hear this and some (slightly) more modern sounds in our musical ode to a Commonwealth brother. On behalf of all Canadians, we would like to invite the displaced people of Kiribati to our polar opposite paradise.
Hear our feature on Kiribati here.