Marshall Islands Musical Transitions: Marshallese String Band Music Today and Yesterday

By Burke, Mary Lawson | Yearbook for Traditional Music, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Marshall Islands Musical Transitions: Marshallese String Band Music Today and Yesterday


Burke, Mary Lawson, Yearbook for Traditional Music


Marshall Islands Musical Transitions: Marshallese String Band Music Today and Yesterday. 2007. Moonlight Leta Volume 1. Moonlight M001. Distributed by Majuro Music and Arts Society, moonlightmajuro@gmail.com. Compiled by Scott Stege and Ingrid Ahlgren. Annotated by Scott Stege. 11 pp. of notes in English. 17 b/w photographs. 1 compact disc, 23 tracks (74:35).

This beautifully presented CD is the first in a series of recordings of Marshallese acoustic music from the Moonlight Recording Studio sponsored by the Majuro Music and Arts Society, a non-profit organization committed to preserving and promoting Marshallese arts. Diverse string band styles are found throughout Oceania, but most are little known outside the region; this landmark CD is an exciting step toward broader recognition.

Seventeen of the tracks feature music of classic bands from the so-called "Battle of the Bands" era (1975-84), digitally rerecorded from archived analogue tapes as part of a large-scale project. The remaining tracks, performed in 2006, result from an unexpected resurgence of public interest in acoustic string band music that began in 2002 with radio broadcasts of the earlier performances. Blending seamlessly with the earlier tracks, these latter performances retain the hallmarks of classic Marshallese style: three to six performers, strummed guitar accompaniment (with occasional melodic plucking) using basic functional harmony, high vocal tessitura, conjunct melodies, close vocal harmonies with an embedded melody, slow to moderate tempos, and an intimate, laid-back feel. …

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