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Old 08-12-2002, 10:09 PM
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Songs of unity - by Malum Nalu

Every year, on September 16, Papua New Guineans join together to celebrate Independence, linking hands to the refrain of “Oh Arise All You Sons”.

As we all join hands, spare a thought for other unity songs of that eventful period of PNG’s history, which did so much to bring together the many different tribes of this country.

The National Anthem was composed by Tom Shacklady, the Bandmaster of the Royal PNG Constabulary Band, and won a competition for a new anthem in the period just before Independence.

It is interesting to note that when the competition was on, the song “Papua New Guinea” – composed by the remarkable Geoffrey Baskett – was proposed by many people.

Our land is the island of high mountains,
Of sunlit palms and coral sea,
Where our people sing while the drums are beating,
For our land is strong and free,
Papua…New Guinea…

Papua New Guinea, our Motherland,
Every tribe and race, let us work together,
United we shall stand.

There’s a bright new day dawning for our land,
As every tribe and race unite,
Sons and daughters arise, we’ll advance together,
With God to guide us in the right,
Papua…New Guinea…

Papua New Guinea, our Motherland,
Every tribe and race, let us work together,
United we shall stand.

Mr Baskett, the founder of Lae – based Kristen Redio, also wrote three other songs, which are printed in a hymnbook that is in wide use in PNG.

Two of these – “Islands and Mountains” and “We Are Free” – reflect his great love of a country he spent nearly 60 years in and for which he was awarded the MBE in 1990.

Mr Baskett was born at Kohat in the high Himalayan Mountains of India and lived a fascinating life which every schoolboy dreams of.

As a teenager, he left Sydney for a six – week visit to Kwato, an island off the southeast coast of Papua.

That visit turned into nearly 60 years of service to the nation of PNG.

Mr Baskett first came to PNG in 1933 and worked day and night shifts on tractors and a gold dredge on the Bulolo goldfields, served on the islands and mainland with Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) during WW11 when he rose through the ranks from private to captain.

He also worked on various capacities on the staff of the well – known Kwato Mission, and founded a complex for the production of Christian radio programs for 19 radio stations before his “retirement” to Australia.

Mr Baskett tells of the songs he wrote, and his love for PNG, in his autobiography Islands and Mountains.

“Four songs I have written are now printed in a hymn book that is in wide use in Papua New Guinea, and I have often thought that these songs have contributed more to this nation than any book I could have written,” he writes in the book.

“After all, a book once it has been read is usually put away on a shelf for a very long time before it is read again, whereas a song, usually a hymn, is used time and time again, often long after the death of the composer.

“One of the songs in the hymn book is called ‘Islands and Mountains’…the first verse reads:

Islands and mountains, sunshine and breeze,
Flowers and moonlight, swaying palm trees,
Jungles and rivers, white coral sand,
This is my country, this is my land

“I wrote that for a children’s concert at Kwato, making up a rhythm with a suitable waltz – like rhythm.

“As it was quite often sung to visiting tourists, it became quite popular, especially among the Scouts and Guides.


“When some guides sang it at a gathering in Port Moresby, it was learned by a group of Australian guides who then took it back with them.

“Soon afterwards, I was asked it could be printed in their Australian Guides’ Songbook an I of course gave them permission.

“It is now known through international Guides’ circles as the ‘Song of Kwato’.”

Such was the impact of this song that a tobacco firm in Australian actually plagiarized its words, and then used them to promote its cigarette sales in Fiji.

Mr Baskett reveals: “There is an interesting story about this song.

“A friend of mine was working for a firm in Australia which makes small ‘floppy’ discs for gramophones.

“These were made by the thousands and given away as advertisements by various firms.

“One day, I received a call from him asking me if I knew that a tobacco firm in Australia was using my song commercially to boost their sales in Fiji.

“It appeared that he was working on the production of several thousands of discs which would be enclosed in a Fijian newspaper.

“The firm had used my tune but altered the words of some of the verses to fit the Fijian scene and my friend ha already printed hundreds of the discs before he thought of phoning me.

“The words were also printed on an enclosed brochure extolling the firm’s cigarettes and this was put in every newspaper to make sure people got the message.

“I wasn’t particularly happy with the idea of my song being used to promote tobacco sales – being a non smoker – but as two of the lines said ‘We’ll build Fiji now as God has planned, make this his country, make this his land’, I was very much in favor of that idea spreading through their nation.

“So on that basis, I wrote to the manager of the firm and told him that they should have asked for my permission before printing my song and going ahead with their advertising venture.

“However, as they had already spent a great deal of money on the advertisement, it would be in order for them to proceed.

“The manager answered very apologetically and sent me a cheque for A$100 so that settled that!

“But I always feel that that it was more than just coincidence that of the millions of men in Australia, the one who had been given the job of printing the floppy discs should have been a personal friend of mine who knew the tune I had composed.”

“Papua New Guinea” was composed while Mr Baskett was working with the Department of Information.

He recalls that the director called him up one day and said the team going to the South Pacific Games was looking for an anthem to sing, and as at that time PNG did not have a national anthem, could he do something about it for them.

“I had always enjoyed a tune which is widely known around Port Moresby Papua e, oi natumu ahaodia…and I thought of using this and putting new words in English to make it suitable for the occasson,”Mr Baskett writes in Island and Mountains.

“As the song was always sung in Motu, it was not widely known throughout the country, and I thought it would be a good chance to teach others this most – attractive melody.

“Later, it was written out for the Police Band, and in time the tune was known nationwide.

“When there was a competition for a new National Anthem, this song was proposed by many people, but one that was written by the bandmaster at the time “Arise All You Sons”…was chosen and is now the PNG National Anthem.

“Papua New Guinea has become a popular national song and is often heard on the radio.

“The same song was sung by a group of students during a visit by Sir Paul Hasluck, who later became Governor – General of Australia.

“After listening to the song, which speaks to us about uniting to build our nation, Sir Paul said, ‘well, there is no need for me to make my speech now, you have sung all that I planned to say out!”

Also at the time of Independence, Mr Baskett entered a song, which won first prize in the solo section, although he did not sing the solo. Entitled “We Are Free”, it is now played on the radio each year during Independence Day broadcasts.

“So, as I said, there is more value in composing a song that is known to many thousands of people than in writing a book that is read by relatively few,” he said.
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Old 08-12-2002, 10:12 PM
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Islands and Mountains :

Islands and mountains, and sunshine and breeze,
Flowers and moonlight, swaying palm trees,
Jungles and rivers, white coral sand,
This is my country, this is my land.

Dark were the days when men lived in fear,
Fear of the arrow, stone club and spear.
Fighting and hatred filled every land,
That was my country, that was my land.

Then came the change that brought peaceful days,
News of our Saviour, learning his ways,
Darkness is fading, out of our land,
We know the peace of his Guiding hand.

What of the future? Soon we shall be.
Teachers and leaders, of our country,
We’ll build our nation, as God had planned,
Make this His country, make this His land.

Then shall our country, be free and strong,
Homes will be filled with laughter and song,
Peace in our hearts and work for our hands,
Unite our nation with other lands,
Unite our nation with other lands.

We are free :

Like the birds as they fly over high mountains,
Like the fish as they swim in the sea,
Like the clouds as they float in the clear blue sky,
We are free! We are free! We are free!

Like the songs of a bird at the break of day,
Like the wind in the leaves of a tree,
Like the waves as they break on a coral shore,
We are free! We are free! We are free!

Independence has come, now we all must work
To unite Papua New Guinea,

We shall build our new nation in peace and love,

We are free! We are free! We are free!
We are free! We are free! We are free!
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