Saturday, July 15, 2017


Before Papua New Guinea’s independence, music from this island nation was relatively unknown. 

They’re known for a type of celebration called sing-sing. This almost festival-like ordeal includes singing, dancing, gift-giving, and plenty of good food to go around. Dancers wear colorful costumes that represent their particular culture. One of the styles of music that is performed during this is a polyphonic form between a leader and a chorus, creating a fugue-like effect. 

During the latter part of the 1800s, Gregorian chanting and Christian hymns were introduced by both the British and the Germans. Australians coming over during the Gold Rush introduced the mouth organ to the Papua New Guineans. Of course other Polynesian music was slowly integrated with their own as well. By the time the 20th century rolled around, work songs, hymns, and other recorded examples of Western music became quite popular. After the World Wars, instruments like the ukulele and string bands were introduced to the islands.

After the country gained its independence, a few other Western styles were introduced, including pop, reggae, and hip-hop. George Telek was one of the first musicians to merge his native Toloi musical traditions with Western rock and reggae styles. He was among the first musicians to gain any kind of notoriety outside of the country. His first solo album actually won an Australian award for Best World Album in 1997.

Ansolm Nakikus is a prominent reggae musician from Papua New Guinea. Although he has a couple of solo albums out, he often collaborates with other musicians from around the South Pacific islands. I would say that although he’s known for his reggae, it sometimes sounds like a different style of reggae than the Caribbean variety that I’m more familiar with.

Probably one of the more popular musicians is reggae/hip-hop artist known as O-shen. He was actually born in the US but moved to Papua New Guinea when he was little and was raised there, so many of his songs are in Tok Pisin. He currently lives in Hawaii. I like his music; it kind of reminds me of a Jamaican “lovers rock” style, like Beres Hammond and others.

I also came across Justin Wellington. His music is definitely reggae but it’s closer to the dancehall style than anything, I suppose. At least on some songs. I listened to his album Reign of Morobe, and I really liked what I heard. I was quite impressed. Definitely the kind of stuff you’d find in a “summer” playlist.

Up next: the food

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