Small Island Big Song

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Emlyn of Mauritius
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Small Island Big Song is a collaboration of islander artists for environmental and cultural justice. 

OUR VOICES SILENCED – OUR SONGS & LANGUAGES BANNED – THE LAND LOST ITS CUSTODIANS – DEC 10 – WE REWRITE HISTORY

Small Island Big Song to release Madjadjumak (Dec 10, 2021), a song by Sauljaljui of the Paiwan tribe of Taiwan in collaboration with 11 musicians from 9 oceanic countries.

“Nowadays you can’t talk about Taiwan without thinking of the tension with China. Our music turns it’s back to China to face the Pacific, reconnecting Taiwan’s Indigenous ties with the Indo-Pacific, a legacy thousands of years and miles strong,” says BaoBao Chen, the founder of Small Island Big Song. The project is releasing a new single written by a Taiwanese indigenous singer-songwriter Sauljaljui.

Sauljaljui is of the Paiwan tribe of Taiwan. She wrote Madjadjumak thinking about how she connects with other Indo-Pacific islanders through her local river which connects how rivers connect to the ocean and the flow of nature has been broken because of the dam built in her community. She’s also using this as a metaphor of reuniting with her families of the Austronesian diaspora through song.

Beginning with Sauljaljui’s call, 11 musicians from 9 oceanic countries joined her from Easter Island, New Zealand, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tahiti and others responding to her call in the song. Marshallese spoken word artist Selina Leem, a speaker at the recent COP26, contributed a verse in Marshallese.

Taiwan is the origin of the Austronesian people with evidence from linguistic, botanical, and DNA research. The diaspora spans across from Taiwan to New Zealand, from Easter Island to Madagascar. Small Island Big Song producer Taiwanese BaoBao Chen and Australian music producer Tim Cole co-founded the project after hearing the 5th IPCC report about how sea level rise is affecting these island nations, and have spent three years recording and filming with over a hundred musicians from 16 island nations since 2016.

Sauljaljui (Translated from Paiwan language of Taiwan)

Oh the endless great ocean
You are the path of my life
Oh the endless great ocean
You are the strength of my life
o~hai yan hoho o
o~hai yan hoho o

(Spoken word)
I know the sun tomorrow
Will rise from the same place
I will no longer sadden as yesterday
I will find you across the mountains and valleys
I choose you to ease my pain

Listen to the calls in my heart
Listen to the tears I long for
(let’s sing together)

Listen to the calls in my heart
Listen to the tears I long for
(let’s sing together)

Even though my eyes are covered
I will walk to the front of you
(let’s sing together)

Even though my legs and arms are cut off
I will walk to the front of you
(let’s sing together)

Selina Leem (Translated from Marshallese)

The leaves on the day after
Are red as the sun’s fire
The trees
Their branches are broken/their bones broken
The fronds have stopped playing with the wind
The thick rain (meaning heavy rain)
Has forgotten their children
In the soil/land

The ocean
The sea
Our ancestors/elders
They were the one who sailed
Fast as the flying fishes
And we all look at one another
And run towards them
As our feet touch the ocean of tears
We hug our people
They have come to save us

Small Island Big Song is a music, film, live project featuring over a hundred musicians across 16 island nations of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, creating a contemporary and relevant musical statement of a region in the frontline of cultural and environmental challenges. The album & film were composed, recorded, shot and overdubbed in nature, on the artists’ custodial land.

A Taiwan & Australia co-production, and a fair trade music & film release.

Listwar Zanset (released Nov 19, 2021)

Small Island Big Song to release Listwar Zanset (Oct 29, 2021), a unique collaboration between Emlyn of Mauritius, Putad aka Outlet Drift of Taiwan, and Selina Leem of the Marshall Islands

On Oct 29, 2021 Small Island Big Song will release Listwar Zanset, the third single released in anticipation of SIBS’ upcoming 2022 album and subsequent US tour. Listwar Zanset features a unique collaboration between Emlyn of Mauritius, who is representing the new generation of Sega music and is also co-founder of a plastic pollution educational NGO; Putad aka Outlet Drift of Taiwan, a strong singer songwriter merging her indigenous Amis chant with rock and grunge style- a regular surfer, Putad took part in a successful court case to fight against development on her coastline; and Selina Leem of the Marshall Island, a spoken word artist & poet who was the youngest spokesperson at COP21 for the Paris Agreement. Selina contributed a short spoken word piece to the end of the song, which can be found below.

Listwar Zanset clearly shows the collaboration between the three artists, representing their cultural lineage (they all sing in their Indigenous languages), their personal and island nations’ musical voices, and their intersection over cultural and environmental issues. 

Listwar Zanset began with Emlyn writing a song influenced by the traditional Sega style of Mauritius. Sega has its roots in the slave era as the slaves from Madagascar & Africa were banned from playing music- they used the tools they worked with in the cane fields as instruments, and had to hum so their voices weren’t heard, as you can hear in the song. 

Putad from the Indigenous Amis tribe of Taiwan heard the song and instantly aligned with its meaning as her people were also removed from their custodial land, so she added a verse to Emlyn’s chorus. Selina’s short spoken word piece is about the Climate Refugees who are forced to leave their islands behind due to rising seas. 

Luc from the duo Vaiteani added a guitar line, Sammy played Madagascar’s national instrument, the Valiha, Sauljaljui of the Paiwan tribe of Taiwan added the Moon Lute, and the master drummer Airileke of Papua New Guinea added his traditional drums, the Kundu and Warup, giving the song a unique rhythm uniting The Pacific & Indian Oceans. 

Listwar Zanset‘s narrative is that we are custodians of our homelands, and now is the time for our voices to rise and protect the land. In Selina’s words:

We are women of the ocean, custodians of our island homes, 
My people were forced off our lands into slavery – Emlyn – Mauritius
My people were forced off our land by the colonizers – Putad – Taiwan
My people are forced off our land by the rising sea – Selina Leem – The Marshall Islands
The land has lost it’s custodians.Our voices were silenced, our songs and languages banned, forced to hum and whisper amongst ourselves. In our song you hear that hum building to a crescendo, to sing out full voice reclaiming our heritage, our power, our land.

Small Island Big Song is a music, film, live project featuring over a hundred musicians across 16 island nations of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, creating a contemporary and relevant musical statement of a region in the frontline of cultural and environmental challenges. 

The album & film were composed, recorded, shot and overdubbed in nature, on the artists’ custodial land.

A Taiwan & Australia co-production, and a fair trade music & film release.

What They’re Saying about Small Island Big Song

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