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World Music CD Reviews Australia & Oceania

THE TAHITIAN CHOIR

By Steve Holtje
Published August 28, 2005

Rapa Iti
Soulitude

This caused a sensation when released in 1992 on Triloka. Its reappearance is welcomed, although not the sappy synthesizer accompaniment on the bonus track that opens the new disc. Fortunately, the remainder of the CD is solely the original acappella program. Although producer Pascal Nabet-Meyer requested the choir's oldest music, the diatonic harmonies, simple rhythms and lock-step movement on "Himene Tatou" and "Va Hiti" are strongly hymn-like. The British "discovered" the island in 1791, with missionaries and their music inevitably following; their harmonic influence is heard more subtly in some other pieces as well. On the other hand, "Morotiri Nei," "Ratou Ki Ota," and "Tau Matamua" are amazing microtonal pieces featuring a descending portamento effect that radical avant-gardists will envy. There's also call-and-response ("Ei Reka E" and elsewhere), the nasal, pressed tone by the female voices that recalls the sound of the Bulgarian Women's Choir (not to suggest any cross-cultural influence there!), and a sort of chattering polyphony familiar from Balinese vocal music. This distinctive choral classic belongs in every international music collection.