Music for West Papuan freedom

Merdeka: Artists from around the world unit in support of the independence movement in West Papua

Dancing Turtle Records, 2007

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Merdeka is a Malay or Indonesian word meaning freedom or independence. This album, Merdeka, is a compilation of music from around the world in support of the independence movement of West Papua. All funds from the sales go to support West Papuan refugees. There continue to be Papuan refugees over the border in Papua New Guinean territory. Australian musician, David Bridie spearheaded musical efforts here to raise consciousness about West Papua. The torch has been passed on to Dominic Brown, who compiled this album.

Sound recordings or tracks from West Papua or West Papuan groups, such as the Mambesak cultural and dance group, are well-represented. The singing of the Illaga village people in the Central Highland of West Papua is included, such as in the opening track "Prelude". This is followed by a track "Guit Save Papua" featuring sections of speeches by West Papuan activists speaking out about the struggle of their people for freedom from Indonesia and the crucial role of international support, played over the backdrop of rhythmic percussion rising and falling with some electronic sounds punctuating the percussion. "Celestina" is a beautiful track from Madagascar by Modeste Hugues Randriamahitasoa with simple, gentle, lilting guitars and beseeching vocals. This track should get you hooked firmly into the rest of the album.

Demonstrating the growing awareness about the issue, bands from many different countries such as Madagascar, Ireland, Romania and Brazil feature on this compilation. This results in some very diverse sounds, but it's also striking how similar music can be in terms of its influences and sounds, even when musicians are separated by vast distances and cross-cultural collaborations abound in this album.

This is a compilation that has been put together carefully to give listeners a sense of Papuan music and culture, as well as some wonderful tracks from other parts of the world. All 20 listed tracks, which include the West Papuan sound recordings, are thoroughly intriguing and wondrous.

Zina Saro-Wiwa wrote and produced "Soon Come" by Copperqueen in a musical collaboration between Nigerian, British and Brazilian musicians. Samba is also given a star turn in one of the tracks on this album, "Brazil Yori", as is "samba jazz" in "Agua de Beber" by the band New Samba Jazz. The beautiful Zambian piece "Ubukwa" by Dominic Kakolobango is perhaps more familiar, but is also a new twist on African music.

The album contains an overview of the West Papuan issue in the sleeve notes and refers listeners to a website on West Papuan independence, as well as individual band websites. There is a sense of urgency for the world to act to stop the genocide of 400,000 Papuans. Australia's proximity to West Papua, its shameful role in the continuing occupation and the arrival in 2006 of West Papuan refugees by boat on Cape York all mean that West Papua should have a higher profile in this country than any other. But that may not be the case. This CD is another important way to profile this issue worldwide.

There are fantastic, incredible sounds on this album. Too often compilation albums are just too diverse and eclectic. If you are looking for a classy, confident and thought-out compilation that will expose you to lots of new sounds and also contributes to a better world, order this album from the website. With a world album as diverse as this dedicated to it, perhaps West Papua's time indeed has come. Let's hope so.