of Bamboo Bands at Roviana Festival, Munda
have had a lot of great surprises in the Solomon Islands,
but the best one to date has to be being introduced
to bamboo bands.
had absolutely no idea what a bamboo band was, or how
it worked, until covering the annual Roviana Festival
in Munda, Western Province.
festival is a great gathering where sports, culture
and music combine to celebrate the Solomoness of people
in the region.
promise of lavish tamoko, or war canoes, to photograph
lured me back to the Hapi Islands just before Christmas.
knew it was going to be hot, but sometimes even being
forewarned does not help.
was very hot and sultry. Even the locals were feeling
the heat and all marvelled at the European bloke who
carried heavy camera gear around for hours in the conditions.
the thoughts of the war canoes kept me cool until I
was informed that - due to a dispute - they would not
be arriving. All I had to photograph was a kid's dug
out canoe ...
well, there has to be something else.
the distance I heard this strange sound with an instantly
grabbing rhythm. What the heck is that and headed in
the direction of the sound.
there they were, just on sunset, a bamboo band practising
for the next day's competition.
me describe it.
an elastic percussiony sound with an addictive beat
that makes it impossible to not tap your feet, or hands
or, in my case, get a little dance going. And for me
dancing is something that is only usually done after
the direst insistance of my beloved lady.
never heard it before but, within seconds, bamboo music
was my thing. I swear to God it was that quick.
in guitars and high-pitched singing and it is a combination
that would have Simon Cowell saying "wow."
the thing about bamboo bands is that they are not that
mean they would never be included in marching bands.
signature instrument - the bamboo elasticky-sound thingy
- is huge.
are three decks of seven hollowed out bamboo pipes,
which range in length from about 1.5m to 3m. Fabulous
yes, moveable no.
may be hollow but there is a heck of a lot of weight
in those tubes.
just so wanted to get hold of an improvised mallet and
start making music.
was the mallet? A cleverly re-styled piece of coconut
I didn't get the opportunity to get groovy during the
competition but, months later on the isolated island
of Santa Catalina, I did.
was at the end of the Wogasia Festival where bamboo
pipes were replaced by plastic plumbinbg tubes and the
coconut husks by thye bottomns of flip-flops.
asked a tour guide if it were possioble to join the
band and he asked if I had experience.
I confessed and he rather rudely said the same.
I went to the band itself and asked if I could give
it a go. One drummer said "yes" with a huge
what do I hit? He showed me the basics and away I went.
was fantastic and everyone said I did a terrific job.
It was one of the best feelings I've had.
just who won the Roviana Festival bamboo bands competition?
I have it written down somewhere but, in my opinion,
it doesn't matter.
winners are everybody who competed because they create
joy. And what more could anyone want?
than a CD, of course.