The Tahitian Choir

Rapa Iti

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The Tahitian Islands include Oparo, also known as Rapa, where some 330 inhabitants dwell; 126 of the villagers comprise this choir. The unusual sonorities of all those singers, pure intonation not so much being the prerequisite as is the spirit, reflects the diversity of their distinct Polynesian culture. It sets them apart from Bulgarian but places them closer to African vocal groups. Themes are based on stories of the island's founding, struggles, and social development, and female vocals are dominant. Three of the tracks -- "Morotiri Nei," "Ratou Ki Ota," and "Tau Matamua" -- use a technique (or perhaps it's the voluminous ocean humidity affecting the tapes) where the speeds of the voices slur and slow down appreciably. Several pieces such as "Te Parau O Eri Rama" and the shoutout for the return of a high priest, "Tamaki A Te Mau Ariki," are multi-layered, while sustained strains of "Tarema," as well as "Tevaitau," are polyphonic, at times cacophonous. Hymnal pieces include "Va Hiti" and the deity song "Himeme Tatou," while call and response between male and female informs the near classical resolutions of "Te Matamua." "Ei Reka E" is the most African-like "tune" with spoken chirping back and forth between the sexes on the fun island tale "Oparo," a battle for water is depicted during the polyphony saturated "Te Vahine Oroagni," while a joyous attitude is most prevalent in the counter-pointed, whoop accented, historical village chant/story "Oparo E Oparo E." This recording will appeal to specialized world music tastes who gravitate away from beat-oriented pop and more toward folk ethnic expressionism. It tells of a spirit quite different from Western or Eastern cultures, signifying a specialized group of people who are not generally regarded as having a distinct sound of their own music. They do.

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