Small Island Big Song is one of the most important music collectives you’ve never heard of. It was founded by Taiwanese producer BaoBao Chen and Australian music producer and filmmaker Tim Cole in 2015.The two have been recording and filming with over a hundred musicians in nature across 16 island nations of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Extending their scope beyond music, they’ve made a feature film, and a live concert series. Traveling globally, thinking universally. Small Island Big Song is the result of cultural integration with humanity as a scale. The scope? The globe. Our Island is the name of the album.
Singing in their tongue, these native musicians create music with their vernacular instruments. Marasudj is the opening track in their album. What can truly be described as world music, the language seems to be the only disconnect. The sentiment is of unity, peace and togetherness. Themes we speak too much of, but do too little about. The backdrop unites the listener with the musician in a sense, while the harmony stands out. So many artists and one united theme creates a fascinating mosaic of brimming positivity.
Understanding via energy
Listwar Zanset is a bopping dance style number. The beat stands out as a solid entity, as collaborating artists add highlights. Almost a melodic praise for the gifts of the world, the song is as emotional as it is catchy. The harmonics do a great deal in uniting these artists’ unique vocal approaches.
Ta’u Tama has been popular amongst listeners. It’s reggae sound creates a relaxing pool of sound that you gaze into the lush verdant of the jungle on. Purpose unknown, we still struggle to come to equal terms with nature. SIBS repurposes their energy into making art, that serves a greater purpose than them.
Without witnessing Small Island Big Song in action, I can feel an energy that is uncommon. It is of the collective good, something beyond self-preservation. Reaching the depths of nature’s sound to sing her songs. Listening to what music she has given us and displaying gratitude. No visual, but the magnetic force of honest music that is beyond the artist and us.
Pinasanga has the appeal and approach of a slow burn visual, slowly building like the nature of waves. The slow beats add to the tempo, but the rhythm is already established with the melody section. Which is what makes this natural approach to making music so much more interesting. It is more to do with tuning into the Earth’s frequency, not creating your own.
The radio of the Earth
Festival of The Living Ocean is what pure dreams are made of. With a fascinating tempo section aided by scintillating vocals, it has the capacity and purpose to make you move. Moreover, the sound of the ocean keeps you in sync with the rhythm the waves produce. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) is a whole other spectrum of sound. Using simple stringed instruments, it makes for a Western sound, yet rooted in the fever of nature.
Madjadjumak is a enchanting tale, with visuals being created with verses and instruments. Each of these tracks tell a tale much larger than that you would picture with this rat race mindset we live in. Here the tracks are about freedom from all things that bind. This is where emotional tracks like Hiro’a make waves. The language is indecipherable, but the progression is complex enough to imbibe a strong sense of responsibility.
Sarbon uses harmonics and the power of sand to create a funky rhythm. Each collaboration gives birth to an unexpected source of music, with a spectrum that can only be felt and is way more complex to understand. Aoka goes the other way from the previous track. Having a steady beat, it also shows us the instrumental proficiency of musicians we wouldn’t expect to visualize when we talk about a musician.
Bridging the sound
Ata Renga Koe has a spine of the vernacular sound, but uses Western instruments. The slow blending in creates a symbiotic understanding of sorts, a rich complex web of sound. The album ends with the emotional track Lament For A Dying Ocean. It really puts things to perspective, the album as a whole. Something that has been so much within our control but we have let spiral. There is no other planet, so alternatives belong here, with and from us.
This collaboration means so much more than we could put together. These are islanders and musicians of different cultures coming together for a cause greater than them. There is nothing I could endorse more than a hopeful future and creations that acknowledge what the Earth has done for us.
I’d love to see this song being used in one of the Madagascar animated movie series as it perfectly fits the vibe of some of the scenes of the movie series in my opinion.
Check out the Movie review here – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/madagascar