Bluesfest 2009, Byron Bay

By Emmanuel Narokobi

In 2007, I took a trip down to the Bluesfest for the first time and I made a point about how there were no PNG acts at the festival. I wondered aloud why we were so close to Australia yet we couldn’t get any of our acts to festivals of this calibre.

Well my prayers have been answered and this year see’s 2 PNG acts performing this Easter holidays at Byron Bay. They are none other than Ngaiire Joseph and Tribe of Jubal.

So if you’re in Brissie or Australia and you can make it, grab a PNG flag and go support our artists at BluesFest 2009.


“Do you still eat people?”

Ok so not too many people will have the privilege of being asked a question of such wondrous absurdity unless of course you’ve been known to fancy the taste of a little human shank or of course your name is Ngaiire (ny-ree) and you’ve spent too much of your life reassuring people that, no Papua New Guinea does not practice cannibalism anymore, so no I’m not going to start hacking off your limbs or run off with your eyeballs.

Now calling Australia home, Ngaiire is amused at how very little the world knows about her country of birth, however this may soon change with Rolling Stone parading her in a 4 page spread as a rising star to look out for alongside Aussie indie kids Lenka, Faker, Holly Throsby and TZU.

With the release of her debut EP ‘Song For No One’ in 2007 there is much anticipation for the release of her album which Ngaire feels is starting to sound like if Erykah Badu went to Oslo and made pancakes with Hanne Hukkelberg.

(Ngaiire write up from from Triple J)


9 thoughts on “Bluesfest 2009, Byron Bay

  1. Its great to see PNG have a presence in international gigs like Bluesfest. It is interesting to note that the acts that represent countries like PNG seem to always have limited (commercial) success in their own countries. Both PNG acts playing are fantastic artists (Tribe of Jubal esp, cos i haven’t heard Ngaiire yet… and her myspace wont load on my dismal UPNG connection!) – but I wonder if the kind of acts that are selected to play at these international events say more about the audience than the cultures they are representing – such as their expectations about ‘authentic’ PNG/music of non-western cultures music etc.

    Just a passing thought… I wonder how popular-at-home local acts like Moses Tau or Skwattas would go down at this type of international events??

    Should be a great concert – I wish I could be there!

  2. Good point Oli, what you’ll find is Ngaiire’s music is actually very western. She sounds like an Erykah Badu so it’s more jazz like. Tribe of Jubal on the other hand is totally neo traditional with a heavy use of traditional instruments. Now if we bring in say a Moses Tau well then that again is very Pacific like with the guitars and a central music type of feel. So from PNG alone we already have a diverse range of genres of music being performed and recorded.

    Now looking at the BluesFest they actually cover a wide variety of genres from Roots, Reggae, Rock, Alternative, Funk, Blues, Hip Hop, Jazz etc. My feeling is that Moses Tau or Skwatas could easily play their music there and fit in with the whole festival feel for what’s new, interesting, earthy, soulful and so on.

    In order for bands to play at BluesFest you simply apply to get in, so I’d say it’s more a case of good management to get into festivals like this as it’s not invitational. (Of course big acts like Ben Harper have different arrangements, but it’s just a case of selling yourself to them).

    What has actually gone in our favour as well is the introduction of their new ‘InDig’ stage which is a first for the BluesFest and has been setup specifically to showcase Indigenous Australian and the Southern Pacific Rim artists.

    So I’d say it’s not really about the audience but more about us putting ourselves out there to be heard. If we can send sporting teams across the world, what about our musicians?

  3. yes, if we can send sporting teams why not musicians. and it really comes down to the managers to really see their application on the basis of a quality entertainment product they can give to the organisers and the audience.

    someone like Moses Tau performing there would be interesting and it really doesn’t matter if the crowd cannot understand the words but if they can create a connection with the crowd through their stage act and really give some sort of a meaning through their body language, dancing etc…i’m sure it will be received positively. This means our artists really need work on all parts of the performance and not just the song itself because of afterall this builds the value of the entertainment product which the organisers and audience are after.

    Tribe of Jubal is a good example where a lot of emphasis is also placed on the stage act and it blends well with the music and song. Some foreign friends didn’t understand some of the songs but the song itself was minor because TOJ really got them involved through the music and the act. maybe another good example is the polynesian band Te Vaka. some of the songs we don’t understand but the voice, the instruments and the dancing really portray something very powerful and raises anxiety or curiosity and if you put people in this situation you’re going to create interest in your music.

    PNG is in a unique position to do this given it’s unique culture and Sanguma did reach this level or creating anxiety or curiosity in the minds of the audience because of the sound, the performance, their appearance and what other unique items they had on stage. this all builds value in the entertainment product and if i think if you can do this, the words of the song don’t matter.

  4. Thanks Emanuel, that’s a good point – I wonder if any well known PNG groups actually tried to get in and got turned down?

    I have been interested in the world music genre for a while, and especially PNG’s involvement (or lack of it) – Telek has a profile overseas, but arguably it has relied on the patronage (for want of a better word) of an established Australian artist (NDW) – kinda like Paul Simon (with LBM) or Peter Gabriel’s ‘indigenous discoveries’.

    The reason why i raised my initial point, is that i am pondering the extent to which the global music industry (that puts on festivals that feature non-western artists), can be interpreted as an example of how western market forces might dictate what is acceptable expressions of indigenous culture or “Papua New Guinean-ness” in the global economy. This has been looked at extensively from perspective of other non-western musical cultures, and has tended to lean toward the negative aspects of the world music market (eg Deep Forest using UNESCO recording of trad. Solomon Island lullaby, selling 10 million copies but not paying local artist one cent!)

    But if PNG artists are not even putting themselves out for selection then this can never be tested!! My involvement in PNG music was originally limited to those artists available in the ‘world music’ market – then i came to PNG and saw that the actual music scene is far far more diverse and exciting than the tiny selection available in the ‘world music’ scene. What will it take to get more PNG acts into this world music scene i wonder… If its simply a case of promotion, then someone needs to do it. and fast!

  5. Mes, Interesting to note that Te Vaka are almost invisible in the main-stream New Zealand (i’m a Kiwi) music scene (i recon there are more Te Vaka fans in PNG!) – instead, they build their carers selling their cultural performances to people from other cultures (they are kinda like self- appointed ambassadors of the array of Polynesian cultures co-existing in Auckalnd). Another Kiwi band, Moana and the Moahunters (now Moana and the Tribe i think) marketed themselves successfully in the same way in the 90’s, and based themselves in Europe!

    I guess i am interested to see if PNG artists who are successful here in PNG can also be successful in the world music scene, unlike the NZ musos in this scene.

  6. I know its always bad to start categorizing music and putting it into boxes etc, but for arguments sake, Oli what in your opinion are the main genres of locally produced music?

    I think by looking at that on an academic level we can identify certain musical styles etc that we can easily predict would make an easy cross over from local to international markets. But then you have the world music market and the pop music market so again where would they go in terms of those 2 broad categories for international exposure?

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