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Merdeka

(Dancing Turtle; US: Available as import; UK: 12 Mar 2007)

It’s irritating to see a formerly colonised nation turn hostile coloniser itself. When Indonesia annexed the western part of the island of Papua in the 1960s it sparked a local secessionist movement that has been running now for almost fifty years. The UK label Dancing Turtle is releasing Merdeka to show “support for the West Papuan people in their ongoing struggle … all proceeds from the compilation are going directly to refugee support schemes.” Like many charity CDs it spreads its net wide, finding room for samba bands, a melodic Zambian, Maltese didge-and-sitar hippie trance, joiking from Norway, a brushy-voiced Italian singer, light Australian blues, and Madagascar guitar from the awesomely named Modeste Hugues Randriamahitasoa. West Papuans themselves show up on a number of the tracks, performing in traditional styles: dry voices, chanting, whistles, pounding. (If you enjoy this, Topic has an album out called Songs and Dances from Papua New Guinea that you might like. Different region but somewhat similar sound.) Merdeka is a superior example of a charity comp. It doesn’t leave me, as some of them do, thinking that the compilers have tossed it carelessly together just to raise money. This would still be a good album even if the thought of West Papuan refugees bored me rigid. (Although if that were true, I’d be fast-forwarding past Chilli’s “Guit Save Papua” and its sampled Papuan voices. “My family, all die.”)

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