Papua New Guinea Stringbands With Bob Brozman

Songs of the Volcano

This delightful multimedia experience documents the stringband music played by five groups of musicians on the island of Rabaul in Papua, New Guinea. Due to the island’s isolated location, and the relatively recent arrival of the instrument, the indigenous guitar music displays a simplicity and innocence that master guitarist and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman speculates may offer insights into, say, early Hawaiian guitar music. Brozman plays mostly a supporting musical role here, documenting the songs in more or less their original forms. Each band features several guitarists playing in open “five-key” tunings, along with a ukulele or two, and the compositions typically blend unadorned rhythm and lead parts, with one guitarist handling bass duties.

The 16-song CD is wonderful, but the accompanying documentary DVD is equally or even more engaging. Filmed during two visits to the island—once to record and again to deliver completed CDs to the musicians—it truly provides a sense of how the musicians live, and their relationship to the music. The well-paced editing makes the experience as entertaining as it is educational. (Riverboat)
—Barry Cleveland