The Null Device


I saw Not Drowning Waving tonight at the West Papua Freedom Concert. Their performance was excellent; probably the highlight of the evening. Very percussive (one song had 8 drummers playing at once); the thunderous percussion and sparse bits of synth, piano and heavily delayed guitar coming together to form epic soundscapes, as vast and wild as the landscapes of this southern corner of the world.

The rest of the night wasn't bad either; Lisa Gerrard came out with a chap named Patrick Cassidy and sang while he accompanied her on an electronic keyboard. The Black Brothers played some reggae-tinged versions of West Papuan songs, and the Dili Allstars' set was also a bit reggaeish. West Papuan outfit Black Paradise, in grass skirts, did traditional songs with just voices and guitars. Then there were the comedians; Dave O'Neill badmouthed his current employer Nova FM ("like FOX-FM", "it's the same six songs"), getting applause from the RRR-listener types in the audience. John Safran explained how a 1960s pidgin broadcast of the Three Little Pigs story to Papua serves as an allegory to the political situation there, and Andrew Denton offered to buy BHP shares for 20 people willing to raid the shareholders' meeting with him.

One thing I noticed, though, was how a lot of the backing tracks (for various indigenous dances and some semi-live musical performances) were heavy on the new-agey synth pad sounds, à la Enigma/Deep Forest. Perhaps such synth sounds are a sort of sonic flavour enhancer, making "world music" more palatable to bourgeous tastes or something?

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