Like most of you I am familiar with the album, Drums Of Bora Bora And Songs Of Tahiti, which came out in the early ’90s when I was on my World Music kick. The recent release of Tahitian field recordings from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project of the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara is something quite different. Gone are the drums and what were are left with are choral voices from the 1920s stored on cylinder recordings. These four tracks are quite interesting as they’re not focused on the dance rituals, but seem to be songs of sorrow and lament. As the evolutionary biologist Henry E. Crampton wrote in The Songs of Tahiti (1912):
It may be that their singing is first heard at night when arriving at one of their primitive villages far distant from the mixed civilization of commercial towns. In a large thatched hut or a more elaborate church the natives gather after the evening meal to sing perhaps all the night through. From a little distance the music sounds as though it were produced by a splendid reed organ or by an orchestra of wood wind instruments. Through the open doorway the people may be described in the half light seated in rows with the women toward the front the older men next and the youths toward the back. The last named drone out the full deep notes of the lowest bass thus giving to the whole harmony the organ point support which so impresses the hearer even at his first experience. The older men weave their tenor strains through the harmony of the song in complete accord with the other voices or singly they may sing a peculiar erratic strain of a few bars before they return to the conventional part which is theirs. The women sing two and sometimes three or four parts in alto and soprano. Often a single female voice will depart from the others for a time to give a shrill wild call like that of a piccolo in the same way that the tenors sometimes do No instruments are used by way of accompaniment only the full rich tones of the wonderful voices are heard.
More interesting are the songs in minor key they express the sorrow of a people wailing for those killed by cyclone and tidal wave or mourning for the old order which has passed away forever For well they know that the future has no place for their fast vanishing race and they voice their sadness in wild melodies.
For historical reasons as well as for just shear please these four tracks are definitely worthwhile for you to download and keep.
Switch to our mobile site