David Bridie, Interview
David Bridie Interview
By Nolan Giles
Two similar men, from two very different regions of the world, are this month celebrating an amazing 23-year partnership, which has helped bridge the social and musical gap between their homelands.
David Bridie, a seven-time Aria-winning artist and producer, enjoys a similar level of respect in our nation as George Telek does in Papua New Guinea, where he stands as the nation’s most-prized musical export. The unlikely duo first earned collaborative success on Bridie’s band, Not Drowning, Waving’s “Tabaran” album, which was recorded in Rabaul, PNG. Since then, they have worked together on a number of internationally acclaimed albums, and have completed successful tours across the globe.
In 2009, a lifetime since their initial encounter over beer and barbecued chicken in Rabaul, the pair are heading off down our East Coast to rekindle their musical magic once more.
I don’t know how the gigs are going to work yet to be honest, I mean we both have over twenty years of music to choose from,” jokes Bridie down a crackling phone-line.
The busy Melbournian is taking time-out of concert preparation, to discuss a friendship that has joined two nations, taking TOMMAGAZINE through the difficulties and triumphs the pair have faced, as they put the remarkable music of a suffering country, on the international map.
Bridie believes that Papua New Guinea should be seen as a land of great importance to Australia, he says the nation, which has given him so much personal inspiration over the years, is widely ignored by its prosperous neighbour.
“Papua New Guinea is an incredibly fascinating place and Australia has a big link to it, I really think that this is a link that is underplayed,” he says.
“The continual playing of crime gangs, corruption and problems is what we often see on the news, but there is a lot more going on than just that.”
Around 80% of Papua New Guineas residents live in what we would class as ’sub-standard’ conditions. This, in addition with a violent tribal history, a profusion of AIDS and Indonesian logging demoralising the countries economy, sees PNG often landing in our news for the wrong reasons. However, the country is as rich culturally as one place can get, sporting over 700 unique languages, spread amongst isolated tribes, whose musical and social ways of life differ dramatically from each other.
“It is really hard to generalise about music from PNG, because there is so many different styles of music; there is traditional, there is string band, there is choral, there is rock, reggae and hip hop and on top of that you have all the different groups, with so many different cultures and languages,” explains Bridie.
“It is such an incredibly fascinating place, the country has had a massive effect on me personally, as well as on most other people who go there. I just want to assist in whatever way I can to be involved with the musical journey of Papua New Guinea.”
Bridie met Telek on his first visit to Papua New Guinea in 1986 where he was relaxing after composing a soundtrack for a canoeing documentary on the Southern part of the island.
“I kept on hearing this song, ‘Abebe’, everywhere that I went, I’d hear it on the buses, in the music stores and in the food shops,” he says.
I ended up buying the cassette and finding out it was a song by the Moab Stringband, which was fronted by Telek. I met George and we had a barbecue and a few beers and you know things just kind of progressed from there.”
Telek strums a steel-string guitar and sings in the Tolai language, Kuanuan, and creole Tok Pidgin as well as English. His songs are a mixture of contemporary Western patterns with the traditional music of his region. Bridie has the up-most respect for the man, who was already a local hero long before they met, although he admits that that the life-long friends have more in common than one would think.
“The difference between George and myself is not as great as you would imagine, we both grew up listening to Creedence, the Beatles and the Stones,” he laughs.
“I’ve spent a lot of time up there so his music kind of rubbed off on me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to record four albums with Telek and tour around the world with him, he’s an amazing character.”
“George has grown in confidence and he has really taken on this role as an ambassador for Papua New Guinea to project another kind of picture of the country to the one that we often get in the media. He is a very proud person and he loves to fly the flag for his people when he is overseas.”
Bridie and Telek have recently been involved with World Vision travelling to remote regions of PNG and working with underprivileged musicians and children.
“The World Vision thing is great because it works, I mean you really see it work, the kids there get so into their music,” he says.
“We were sent into a rural province, where the children were really starved for opportunity. They really got into it and were writing into all hours of the night and coming up with some really great material they are now creating really strong music up there.”
Bridie sees helping these communities as a rewarding task, but at the same time believes this process must be undertaken with the upmost care.
“You’ve really got to get in their and show a lot of respect and earn peoples trust,” he explains.
“The World Vision in Papua New Guinea had centres in a number of rural villages, as you could imagine with the communities so steeped in local tradition you have to make a big effort to get the elders on your side and not spook them, christianity works on the premise that sex is bad and some music can be seen as a sexual expression. I think, however that music is the best way of get