The sound on these 1970 field recordings, brought to us by Ocora, is just fine. With liner notes in French, English, and German, Music of Guadalcanal is an educational listen, affecting in the culture it documents. The opening ten selections are of a coastal population of the Ghaobata region (named for a large clan) of Northern Guadalcanal. First come three women's rope dances, which feature two women soloists whose voices intertwine while the rest of the group hum a drone that drops a few notes at the end of each phrase. Throughout, the rhythm is marked by handclaps and shells that rattle with each step. The two loloele songs are a cappella, sung by 17 women, two of whom solo in parts while the rest reply in chorus. The loloele is the type of song and dance traditionally performed by the women in connection with the now-defunct female coming-of-age ritual of ornamental scarification of the face. During the festivities -- which would begin the night before to tire the girl so she would feel less pain -- the men would sing the silaru, festive songs, such as the next two tracks on this disc. The eighth and ninth tracks capture a ballet performed by 12 costumed men, with two lead parts backed by a wordless chorus. The last of the recordings documenting the coastal population is of the ancient Aeolian organ, which is made of bamboo canes and played by the wind. The second part of this release documents music from the Bahomea region at the center of the island. The recordings from two villages of the mountain-dwelling population include the hypnotizing instrumentals of the Panpipe Ensemble (tracks 11-18) and a cappella women's chorus singing funeral chants.
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AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne