The Guardian December 13, 2000

CD Review by Vikki Johns
Bougainville Voices

recorded by Justin Tonti-Filippini
BRA General Sam Kauona & Josephine Kauona-Sirivi
Bougainville Voices was recorded in central Bougainville in 1997/1998. It consists of 19 tracks of Bougainville music and an eight-page booklet. It introduces the listener to the typical sounds of a day in Bougainville: preparing breakfast to the tune of a solo panpipe, working in the garden, echoes across the mountains as the Truce Monitoring Group approaches the village, light rain, waterfalls, and the rich forest orchestra at night. The garamut drums then announce an important occasion before we hear the Bougainville anthem sung in English and played on guitar, shakers and a variety of bamboos in a style not heard before. A very lively bamboo bass then carries us through to the traditional singsing kaur complete with the smashing of the bamboos at dawn as a form of copyright. Tracks 9 to 14 are possibly the highlight of this CD. This ensemble of bamboo basses, bamboo trumpets and enthusiastic singers tell us of their attitudes towards the CRA mining company (now Rio Tinto) and Papua New Guinea, often with a sense of humour, but reinforcing the hurt and death caused by what became known as The Bougainville Crisis. We then return to a more homely setting: BRA General Sam Kauona, Josephine his wife and their family on the balcony of their house in the village singing a sample of their own war songs about care centres and reinforcing a Christian theme which often appears within this CD as the leaders ask God for guidance, all to a guitar accompaniment. The CD concludes with Polynesian type harmonies with light rhythmical clapping as the Bougainville women sing and pray at their first Women for Peace and Freedom meeting. The booklet included with the CD contains occasional explanations, the song lyrics in language and their English translations which were completed by Sam and Josephine Kauona-Sirivi. Nine informative colour photographic images appear within the cover and back insert which include the bamboo instruments and various political meetings which were held in Bougainville during the time of recording and which served as a background to this music. This is an exceptional CD. Recorded by Justin Tonti-Filippini at the personal invitation of the Bougainville leaders, immediately after the New Zealand brokered truce made it possible for him to travel into Bougainville with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and to catch music which shows the extraordinary musical innovation of the Bougainville people. It is an essential recording for anyone with an interest in indigenous music and issues. Its energy and variety both inform and entertain the listener, giving an unusual insight into these determined and creative people. For further information about purchasing this CD, go to

Back to index page