David Bridie, Interview (part 2)
in terms of the issues in Papua New Guinea I think ignorance is a major problem with it. People just seem to think that there must be an easy way to fix the problems there and there really isn’t. I mean it can be dangerous place to work in, there are traditional, superstitious beliefs that must be taken the right way.”
Another positive facet of Bridies contribution to PNG’s musical enterprise comes in his strong involvement with the Wantok Musik Foundation. The Foundation, which was formed by Bridie and a number of others in 2006 aims to ignite cultural and economic empowerment through music in indigenous communities within Australia, as well as Melanesia. By establishing a non-profit label and offering talented artists the chance to produce commercial standard recordings, WMF have given a new lease of musical life to a numerous performers.
“The Wantok Musik Foundation has been a fantastic help in promoting Melanesian music, it also has fast-tracked the collaborations between Melanesian musicians and Australian musicians, which I feel is very important,” he says.
“I love being involved at that level.”
With many of the musicians involved with the Foundation hailing from places of diminished economic needs, there is a careful line that Bridie must walk between exposing and exploiting these artists. He believes, however that the brilliant strength of character of these people, combined with his tactfulness ensures that nobody takes any bullshit.
“I think that is something that is very important to be aware of, the fact that they keep letting me go over and work with them indicates that I’m not ripping them off!” he jokes.
“All the musicians that I work with know what they want, they are very proud and very strong, we all work together and we trust each other and we all get paid the same amount of money,” he explains.
“It is a learning process working with people from these poorer backgrounds and you certainly have to go in there with a great deal of respect and understanding for them.”
As part of the Wantok’s initiative, Bridie undertook the direction of the sold-out ‘Sing Sing’ tour in the United States in May, after the success of three previous tours on a more local-level. The ambitious project featured five performances across North America from indigenous artists including Telek and the Moab String Band as well as a number of other musicians and dancers from various Oceanic countries including Australia. The concerts utilised song, dance, and video projections, to portray the stories from our often-forgotten corner of the globe.
“The American tour was amazing for me, on a whole lot of levels” he exclaims.
“The Sing Sing shows got standing ovations and full-houses every night, it was also the the first time a West Papuan performer has ever performed in the United States, so that was pretty unreal.”
“I also got to do some solo shows, which was also fantastic, it was pretty funny, the guy who does my website has a band in San Francisco and we met up and did a show together in Tucson, which was great fun. It’s an amazing place there out in the desert, its not really known for its musical background but there is a lot going on there culturally and its a beautiful city.”
The songs from that intimate performance are available to download from his website.
Bridie may be modest in describing his major role in this phenomenal story, but it is not difficult to see that beyond this bashfulness is a humanitarian musician who can stand humbly among the ranks of Peter Gabriel and Ry Cooder.
Anyone hoping to immerse themselves in the rich musical backdrop of Bridie and Telek’s friendship can check out their stunning show at the Logan Entertainment Centre tomorrow night.