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Old 16-07-2003, 08:14 AM
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PNG music, selling itself cheap - by William Natera (Wantok Niuspepa)

FIRM advocates of PNG traditional contemporary music believe that the country's industry is "selling itself cheap".

Top Papua New Guinean musician, dancer, actor and comedian, Markham Galut, said that there is a need for artists to produce music using our more traditional sounds to break into the international market.

The veteran performer whose 'showbiz' track record includes being a Redfern Aboriginal Dance School instructor in Sydney in 1991, and the tour leader of an entertainment group to South Korea in 1999, said that there was too much "copy-catting" going on, using 'rap' music as an example.

"And even when the artists are recording traditional songs, usually all the instruments used are modern, and the style of music is western influenced," he said.

Markham believes the 'MTV' culture is partly to blame for this saying that when one artist's albums sales rise, sometimes other musicians, in the hope of 'making the big-time quick-time', take on his brand of music, an unhealthy trend which is hardly creative.

"We need to be original. If we lose our culture, we lose our identity," he says.

Markham realises that there are many who are sceptical of his views on traditional contemporary music as the PNG music industry's saviour. He knows that many consider his opinions old fashioned. But his views are shared by many other artists such as Pius Wasi, formerly with traditional contemporary band Tambaran; Oscar Wanu, the man who played the role of Naaki in arguably our most successful locally produced film Tin Pis Run; and Tony Subam, formerly with Sanguma, without doubt our most successful band of which a hit on the US charts in the early eighties, Yaliko, attests to.

These men may be considered 'old', but one has to take into consideration their impressive resumes, their experience, understand that they're professionals, trained in their art forms, and see that they're still around and actively participating in the industry at home and abroad to understand that there is truth in what they're saying.

Ratoos Gary, also a seasoned painter, actor and former musician, was even more descriptive of current PNG music, saying it would be near impossible to market it internationally and we would be foolish to try.

"We'd be the laughing stock," he said.

Ratoos says that we have adopted far too much of the Polynesian culture and African/Jamaican reggae is too predominant in our music. He said our music is being "destroyed".

"Africa gave the world reggae, Australian Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi gives the world their own unique sounds, and the American Indians today have produced many albums with their own cultural tunes. PNG has its own music too," he says.

But what are these 'critics' of the industry doing to capture that elusive niche in the world market? Ratoos has a strategy, one that involves attempting to sell PNG traditional contemporary music on the UK (United Kingdom) market, where the inter-racial community's tastes vary so much in music that we just might be able to pull off one of those 'one hit wonders' that are so common on the UK charts, which will hopefully lead to better things.
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Old 16-07-2003, 08:18 AM
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Markham has been travelling to and from Australia on various assignments such as helping with the development of internationally recognised PNG traditional contemporary band Drum Drum which is based in Darwin, Australia, but currently in PNG to participate in a workshop, and the Siale Dance Group.

The Group was founded in the late eighties by John Ingram, an expatriate who used to teach in PNG. On his return to Australia, while teaching at an Aboriginal school in Darwin, he formed the group, then known as the PNG Ethnic School, whose members consisted of mixed parentage Papua New Guinean children living there. There mothers or fathers, from different parts of PNG, would teach the children their own songs and dances.

It was an excellent process of grooming talent and keeping cultural values intact. So much so, that those once 10 and 11 year olds, now much older, are regulars at festivals around Australia, Asia, the Pacific and America, and most other parts of the world. Drum Drum hires professional choreographers and musicians through the support schemes from the Australian government to further improve themselves.

Markham was with Drum Drum in 1985, and also in 2000, when he, Pius Wasi, Richard Mogu, Ben Hakalitz, and Patti Doi, assisted in the production of the play, Makoda, with Drum Drum. They played in Darwin, Townsville and Sydney and the crowd loved them.

It's these sort of successes scream, 'yes, this style of entertainment will work". PNG traditional contemporary music in the world arena. It is a contentious issue but as Ratoos says, an important one, and one which most of his colleagues are quite passionate about it. And though many an avid supporter of 'today's' music remain unsure and critical, the most scathing remark however about the industry's state came from Markham when he said: "Wanem, skin tasol bai yumi bilong PNG?" (What, will we be only skin-deep Papua New Guineans?)

ends


Markham Galut (bottom) and Justin Semi are being told by theri Director, Joe Mararos, that there is no end to height. The roof is not the end, you can go higher, higher and higher !
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