BORA BORA—ISLAND OF DREAMS—
Hotel Bora Bora Entertainers.
Hibiscus Stereo/Mono HLS-22 12 in. LP 33 ⅓ r.p.m.
Jim Siers and Hibiscus Records are to be congratulated for this truly memorable recording of the music of Tahiti. Many visitors whose travels have not taken them beyond Tahiti Nui (with a visit to Quinns thrown in for high adventure!) will doubtless have the impression that Tahitian music and dance is largely backsides, bosoms and endless drumming. The true atmosphere of these islands is to be found more off the beaten track at exotic places like Moorea. Raroia, Raiatea and perhaps loveliest of all, Bora Bora. Jim Siers with hyperbole which is always excusable on a record cover but which is doubly excusable in this case because it is true says: ‘If Tahiti is the pearl of the Pacific, then Bora Bora must be a brighter jewel. The beauty crammed into this tiny island gives it a sparkle which must rival the polished lustre of even the brightest pearls’. Bora Bora is famed not only for its scenery but also for the excellence of its dancers, the fact that its traditional folk lore has been fully preserved and also for its tradition of welcome.
Fortunately paradise has not been disturbed too much with the establishment in 1961 of the American owned Hotel Bora Bora—an establishment which, with its individual guest rooms constructed like native fares, has blended in well with the landscape. The Vaitape Himine group which is featured on Side One of the record consists of some 25 to 30 singers who entertain at the hotel on barbecue nights. Few who have seen them will forget their performance, starting with the dramatic moment of their arrival at the hotel beach by outrigger canoe just as dusk is falling. However, on this recording you will probably hear them to better advantage than on the beach at Bora Bora. I recall seeing them in the flesh and feeling slightly irritated that the strident female voices in almost all but a few numbers overwhelmed the softer closer harmonies of the men. Jim Siers was obviously determined to avoid this on his record. “This was achieved by placing the men well apart (not without some protest) so that they could be recorded separately on one of the stereo channels.” The result is a superb recording of some traditional material which is not too difficult for Pakeha ears to appreciate and enjoy. There is a Tamure or drum dance also. My favourite of all the items is the beautiful and plaintive ‘Haere Mai Na e’ (‘Come and join us in our Way of Life’) which strangely enough I first heard some years ago performed by an itinerant troupe at Isle des Pins. Play it over and over if you buy this record.
Hibiscus, or rather Jim Siers who made the record, claims it as ‘one of the most authentic, if not the most authentic, record of Polynesian music’. Maoris will find it particularly interesting because it shows one direction which Polynesian music has taken from the ancient chants and waiata from which New Zealand Maori music sprang. Bora Bora is sufficiently off the beaten track to avoid the corruption which has made much Tahitian music a pale echo of numbers such as ‘Lovely Hula Hands’! The Vaitape Himine Group are older people and
their style, like their material, is sufficiently untainted to guarantee this recording a place in any collection of traditional Polynesian music.
On Side Two we have music rather more modern in flavour but which again is thoroughly indigenous to this area. Five songs and one instrumental piece are performed by a small group which entertains each night at Hotel Bora Bora. These are numbers from the Tuamotu Archipelago, a necklace of islands stretching to the east of Tahiti for more than 1,250 miles. Life on these islands is lonely indeed and the items catch this loneliness and nostalgia for other worlds.
SAMOA I SISIFO
Hibiscus Stereo/Mono HLS-21 12 in. LP 33 ⅓ r.p.m.
‘Samoa i Sisifo’ features the music and dances of Western Samoa as performed by the Western Samoa Teachers' Training College in Apia. The choir consists of some two hundred students divided into four and sometimes five parts.
It is difficult not to enthuse over this excellent record. Tremendous credit is due to the performers and to those who have trained and conducted them. It cannot fail to rank as one of the very best recordings available of Samoan music. Certainly it is the best this critic has heard. I first played it after an evening of reviewing a number of like a breath of fresh air and certainly in many aspects points up some of the Maori groups who commit themselves to record. In many ways the action song has ruined Maori singing—certainly it has cast melody and harmony into a subordinate role with the actions taking priority. Groups can probably get away with this when they are both seen and heard but on record some of the singing sounds pretty thin. On ‘Samoa i Sisifo’ the singing is red-blooded and passionate, disciplined but full of feeling, light and shade. Maoris can do just as well as this of course but regrettably they seldom do—at least on record! The singing also gains from the fact that the obtrusive guitar which dominates and spoils so many Polynesian records is absent. The only accompaniment on this record is a light drum on coconut matting and, in some songs, clapping of the hands.
There is a good selection. Side One contains the impressive anthem ‘Pese Faamavae’ composed by Mrs E. T. Malietoa—the Principal of the Training College and who conducts a number of the items—to farewell a former N.Z. High Commissioner. There is tremendous poignancy in this item. My favourite on this side, however, is the light hearted ‘Laulausiva’ (‘Behold it is a good thing’) with its spirited rhythmical clapping. Another item of interest is the Lord's Prayer in Samoan.
Side Two begins with a collection of songs for a Samoan siva. The men's voices are heard to particular advantage in these items. Also on Side Two is Samoa's famous song of farewell ‘Tofa Mai Feleni’ (‘Goodbye my Friend’) which ranks with ‘Aloha Oe’, ‘Isa Lei’, and ‘Po Atarau’ in its haunting evocation of the pathos of parting.
Although the cover notes are rather reticent on the items themselves, other than to give a free translation of the song titles, there are more full notes on Samoa and some background on the College, the repertoire generally and on the two conductors/ tutors, Mrs Malietoa and Mr Ueta Solomona.