Magazine article Metro Magazine

Last Voices from Heaven: Over the Past Thirteen Years Music Producer Anthony Copping Has Been Searching for, and Uncovering, Ancient Forms of Music in the South Pacific. (Documentary, Short Film and History)

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Last Voices from Heaven: Over the Past Thirteen Years Music Producer Anthony Copping Has Been Searching for, and Uncovering, Ancient Forms of Music in the South Pacific. (Documentary, Short Film and History)

Article excerpt

Confronted by cyclones, live volcanoes and political unrest, the Siva Pacifica (Dance Pacific) project has been a challenge of gargantuan proportions. Now, a National Geographic documentary to be broadcast throughout the channel's 142-nation network, will follow Copping on the latest leg of his odyssey.

Copping's interest in the South Pacific stems back to a childhood obsession with New Guinea. Growing up in England he read about New Guinean tribes and dreamt of traveling through the jungle.

I really feel as if I have a special connection to the place. I don't necessarily think I have a great gift with music or a great gift with visuals but one thing I do have, and trying not to be too arrogant, in the South Pacific I have a gift for connecting with tribal people in remote areas. I don't know where that comes from. Probably just from the fact that I'm so in love with being there and they sense that. So I'm very privileged and I feel privileged every day that I'm there. *

The first inkling of a South Pacific music project came to Copping on a Fijian holiday in the late 1980s. After a coup in the country, flights from Sydney to Suva, the capital, were reduced to $100. On a ferry trip to an outer island Copping encountered a Fijian rugby team. 'They had a guitar and started singing these songs and I couldn't believe how these massive, strapping, guys sang lullabies and produced these beautiful harmonies.' On returning to Suva, Copping looked for Fijian-made records and found none. He then searched all over Sydney and realized that there was simply no South Pacific music available. 'It was apparently an area of non-interest as far as music was concerned and that was my first twinkling of Siva.'

In 1992 Copping was asked to produce some music with the Black Brothers, a West Papuan band famous in the South Pacific.

I was in the studio and expecting two people to turn up for a chat but on the very first day of recording about forty people arrived and sat in the back of the room and just looked at me and I don't think I've ever been so intimidated in my life, particularly in my own studio.

Over the next two weeks Copping and the band recorded many modern renditions of traditional tunes. 'It was just an extraordinary experience and I then started doing regular trips to the South Pacific. I would save my money and go somewhere and take my microphone and try to record some vocals and that's how it began.'

After four years of saving and travelling Copping had made a substantial collection of recordings and the project began to gain wider interest.

It was very minimal at first but the greatest thing happened when we began writing letters to the South Pacific leaders; the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Mamaloni, a great maverick character, invited me up to the Solomons, to Honiara, to meet him and we had this extraordinary situation of a music producer meeting the Prime Minister of a country. He said, 'Funnily enough you're actually one of the solutions to the future of our country in that you're here and you're interested in our music and we don't have that', so it was fabulous and he became a very close ally and friend and patron and he helped me through the bumpy ride to get a record deal.

Finally, in 1997, the first Siva Pacifica album emerged and gained release in around twenty-three countries, selling over 100 000 copies. Copping says,

We really did something that no one had done before which was taking music from the South Pacific and releasing it very widely in Europe. For a non-English-speaking album it was an extraordinary event really. The French and Germans find that whole South Pacific area to be very unique and exotic.

The concept for a Siva Pacifica documentary came about after Copping had shot around fifty hours of Hi-8 footage while recording the first album.

It was all very amateur and hopeless to be honest but it showed that there were a lot of visual components there and when we made a presentation to the record company we showed them some footage and their eyes lit up when they saw where we had actually got the music from. …

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