Sunday, August 14, 2011
Strange Birds in Northcote
It's pretty late but if you're interested in West Papua or if you just generally like damn good music and you're in Melbourne you could do worse than to head down to the Northcote Social Club to see the launch of the soundtrack to Strange Birds in Paradise this afternoon from 1:45 - 4:45pm.
I saw a lot of these bands last year at an event to raise money for relief following an earthquake near the north coast of West Papua that caused a damage in Biak, Yapen and the nearby mainland. There was a really great mix of traditional percussion, I suppose what you'd call more modern guitar based folk songs and even some really tight soul. Great bands, great harmonies and always with a really driving rhythm common to a lot of Papuan music.
I recommend the music without reservation. The movie, less so.
I'm always a bit conflicted about these events because they tend to devolve into platitudes about freedom that make it sound like there's an easy solution to all of the troubles in West Papua. They encourage well-meaning Northcote types to buy lapel pins and Free West Papua bumper stickers while having no understanding of the context or the real-world implications of political change in West Papua.
To be clear, I don't support independence for West Papua. I'll go into the qualifications and reasons for this in a later blog post (if I tried to do it now I'd miss the gig). In short, I want the violence to stop, I want the people to be provided with health, education, infrastructure and other vital services and I want them to be free to express their thoughts, ideas and culture. I just think independence would be a huge roadblock on the way to doing that.
Politics aside, if you're in Melbourne, get down there and catch some great music. If you really do want some politics, ignore the rebels-without-a-cause and talk to the real Papuans.
For my non-Melburnian readers, fyi, Northcote is our little nexus of Hipsterdom. Centre of tight jeans, ironic glasses, veganism, fixed gear bikes and white people. It's top of the list of Stuff White People Like in Melbourne.