To make this album, musicologist and slide guitar master Bob Brozman traveled to the tiny town of Rabaul in the East New Britain province of Papua New Guinea. There he worked with five different traditional string bands (which are usually made up of multiple guitarists, a ukelele, and a varying number of singers). This music has been minimally influenced by other cultures, and rarely (if ever) recorded. Brozman's idea was to document the music and to bring needed musical equipment to the island. As one might expect, the string band music of this region sounds both familiar and foreign; it is tonal and sweetly tuneful, and while the massed voices and simple percussion sounds are quite unique, there are audible influences from both Hawaii (notably on the lovely "Watikai Iau Nuk Pau Atalaigu") and Fiji, influences which tend to be even more clear when Brozman's acoustic slide guitar is added to the mix. Album highlights include the raw and gorgeous "Uma Lari" (performed by the Alir Pukai Stringband), the swaying "Karanas Leva" (performed by the Lions 2000 Stringband), and the program's final track, a heartbreakingly beautiful song titled "Ram Kuk" and performed by the Alir Pukai Stringband. Despite relatively rudimentary guitar technique and a vocal style that isn't always conventionally pretty, these men make music of impressive beauty, and Brozman, to his credit, keeps himself mainly in the background. The package includes a DVD with a fascinating documentary about the island and the making of the album. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2