George Telek, David Bridie & Musicians of the Gunantuna: Songs from a Bit na Ta

February 8, 2017

abitnata1Old Neighbors, New Friends

Listening Post 85. Papua New Guinea may seem remote, but everyone eventually finds it. Prior to independence in 1975, it was colonized or invaded by Germany, Great Britain, Japan and neighboring Australia. Few among the intruders got to know the Papuans, but that’s the aim of a Bit na Ta (Source of the Sea), a sweeping multimedia exhibit at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, which explores the culture and daily life of the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain province, against the backdrop of political and natural forces that have buffeted their lives. The exhibition’s evocative soundtrack balances studio and field recordings, traditional and new works performed by solo artists, choirs and string bands. At the heart of this Papuan-Australian collaboration is the 30-year friendship between George Telek, Papua New Guinea’s leading singer-songwriter, and David Bridie, a Melbourne composer, singer and producer. In Wali, sung by Telek in the Kuanua language, a disheartened soul gives thanks when he hears his neighbors saying, “This man has no land, no garden, no house/We must help him” (video 1). Abot ai Bitapaka (the Battle of Bitapaka) performed by the Sikut Matupit Choir, recalls a World War I clash which left 37 dead— six Australians and one German given proper burials, and 30 Papua New Guineans whose bodies were lost and names never recorded (video 2). Gadin Kaikai (Village Garden) by Telek and the Moab Stringband advises people to stay healthy and hold on to their roots by growing their own food (video 3). Along with other tracks describing clan disputes, rituals, volcanic rumblings, women’s rights and parents worrying about the future, a Bit na Ta gracefully demonstrates why it is more rewarding to befriend a nation than to exploit one. (Wantok Musik)





1 Comment

  1. Chryss Carr

    Alan T – What a fantastic album review – I especially love your closing line – “a Bit na Ta gracefully demonstrates why it is more rewarding to befriend a nation than to exploit one.” (Wantok Musik)


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