Thursday, September 15, 2011

Songs that united Papua New Guinea


Come tomorrow, Papua New Guineans will join together to celebrate our 36th anniversary of independence, linking hands to the refrain of ‘Oh Arise All You Sons’.
As we all join hands, spare a thought for other unity songs of that eventful period of PNG’s history, which did so much to bring together the many different tribes of this country.
‘Oh Arise All You Sons’ – the National Anthem – was composed by Tom Shacklady, the bandmaster of the Royal PNG Constabulary Band, and won a competition for a new anthem in the period just before independence.
It is interesting to note that when the competition was on, the song “Papua New Guinea” – composed by the remarkable Geoffrey Baskett – was proposed by many people.
Geoff Baskett (left) at the presentation of an MBE at Government House

Papua New Guinea

Our land is the island of high mountains,
Of sunlit palms and coral sea,
Where our people sing while the drums are beating,
For our land is strong and free.
Papua……….New Guinea……….

Papua New Guinea our Motherland
Every tribe and race, let us work together,
United we shall stand

There’s a bright new day dawning for our land
As every tribe and race unite
Sons and daughters arise, we’ll advance together
With God to guide us in the right.
Papua……….New Guinea……….

Papua New Guinea our Motherland
Every tribe and race, let us work together
United we shall stand.

Baskett, the founder of Lae-based Kristen Redio, also wrote three other songs which are printed is a hymn book that is in wide use in PNG.
Two of these songs – ‘Islands and Mountains’ and ‘We Are Free’ – reflect his great love of a country he spent nearly 60 years in and for which he was awarded the MBE in 1990.
Baskett was born at Kohat in the high Himalayan mountains of India and lived a fascinating life, one which every schoolboy dreams of.
As a teenager, he left Sydney for a six-week visit to Kwato, an island off the southeast coast of Papua.
That visit turned into nearly 60 years of service to the nation of PNG.
Baskett first came to PNG in 1933 and worked day and night shifts on tractors and a gold dredge on the Bulolo gold fields, served on the islands and mainland with Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) during World War 11 when he rose through the ranks from private to captain.
 He also worked in various capacities on the staff of the well-known Kwato Mission and founded a complex for the production of Christian radio programs for 19 radio stations before his “retirement” to Australia.
Baskett tells of the songs he wrote, and his love for PNG, in his autobiography Islands and Mountains.
“Four songs I have written are now printed in a hymn book that is in wide use in Papua New Guinea, and I have often thought that these songs have contributed more to this nation than any book I could have written,” he writes in the book.
“After all, a book once it has been read is usually put away on a shelf for a very long time before it is read again, whereas a song, usually a hymn, is used time and time again, often long after the death of the composer.
“One of the songs in the hymn book is called ‘Islands and Mountains’…the first verse reads:
Islands and mountains, sunshine and breeze,
Flowers and moonlight, swaying palm trees,
Jungles and rivers, white coral sand.
This is my country, this is my land.
“I wrote that for a children’s concert at Kwato, making up a tune with a suitable waltz-like rhythm.
“As it was often sung to visiting tourists, it became quite popular, especially among the Scouts and Guides.
“When some Guides sang it at a gathering in Port Moresby, it was learned by a group of Australian Guides who then took it back with them.
“Soon afterwards, I was asked if it could be printed in their Australian Guides’ songbook and I of course gave them permission.
“It is now known through international Guides’ circles as the ‘Song of Kwato’.”
Such was the impact of the song that a tobacco firm in Australia actually plagiarised its words and used them to promote its cigarette sales in Fiji.
Baskett reveals: “There is an interesting story about this song.
“A friend of mine was working for a firm in Australia which makes ‘floppy’ discs for gramophones.
“These were made by the thousands and given away as advertisements by various firms.
“One day, I received a phone call from him asking me if I knew that a tobacco firm in Australia was using my song commercially to boost their sales in Fiji.
“It appeared that he was working on the production of several thousands of discs which would be enclosed in a Fijian newspaper.
“The firm had used my tune but altered the words of some of the verses to fit the Fijian scene and my friend had already printed hundreds of the discs before he thought of phoning me.
“The words were also printed on an enclosed brochure extolling the firm’s cigarettes and this was put in every newspaper to make sure people got the message.
“I wasn’t particularly happy with the idea of my song being used to promote tobacco sales – being a non smoker – but as two of the lines said ‘we’ll build Fiji now as God has planned, make this his country, make this his land’, I was very much in favor of that idea spreading through their nation.
“So on that basis, I wrote to the manager of the firm and told him that they should have asked for my permission before printing my song and going ahead with their advertising venture.
“However, as they had already spent a great deal of money on the advertisement, it would be in order for them to proceed.
“The manger answered very apologetically and sent me a cheque for A$100 so that settled that!
“But I always feel that it was more than just conincidence that of the millions of men in Australia, the one who had been given the job of printing the floppy discs should have been a personal friend of mine who knew the tune I had composed.”
“Papua New Guinea” was composed when Baskett was working with the Department of Information.
He recalls that the director called him up one day and said that the team going to the South Pacific Games was looking for an anthem to sing, and as at that time PNG did not have a national anthem, could he do something about it for them?
“I had always enjoyed a tune which is very widely known around Port Moresby ‘Papua e, oi natumu ahaodia…’ and I thought of using this and putting new words in English to make it suitable for the occasion,” Baskett writes in Islands and Mountains.
“As the song was always sung in Motu, it was not widely known throughout the country and I thought it would be a good chance to teach others this most-attractive melody.
“Later, it was written out for the Police Band, and in time the tune was known nationwide.
“When there was a competition for a new National Anthem, this song was proposed by many people, but one that was written by the bandmaster at that time ‘Arise All You Sons’ was chose and is now the PNG National Anthem.
“Papua New Guinea” has become a popular national song and is often heard on the radio.
“The same song was sung by a group of students during a visit by Sir Paul Hasluck, who later became Governor-General of Australia,” Baskett recalls.
“After listening to the song, which speaks to us about uniting to build our nation, Sir Paul said, ‘well there is no need to make my speech now, you have sung all that I planned to say out!’”
Also at the time of independence, Baskett entered a song, which won first prize in the solo section, although he did not sing the solo.
Entitled ‘We Are Free’, it is now played on the radio each year during Independence Day broadcasts.
“So, as I said, I think there is more value in composing a song that is known to many thousands of people than in writing a book that is read by relatively few,” Baskett says.

Islands and Mountains

Islands and mountains, and sunshine and breeze,
Flowers and moonlight, swaying palm trees,
Jungles and rivers, white coral sand,
This is my country, this is my land.

Dark were the days when men lived in fear,
Fear of the arrow, stone club and spear,
Fighting and hatred filled every land,
That was my country, that was my land

Then came the change that brought peaceful days,
News of our Saviour, learning his ways,
Darkness is fading out of our land,
We know the peace of His guiding hand.

What of the future? Soon we shall be,
Teachers and leaders of our country,
We’ll build our nation as God had planned,
Make this His country, make this His land.

Then shall our country be free and strong,
Homes will be filled with laughter and song,
Peace in our hearts and work for our hands,
Unite our nation with other lands,
Unite our nation with other lands.

We Are Free

Like the birds as they fly over high mountains,
Like the fish as they swim in the sea,
Like the clouds as they float in the clear blue sky,
We are free! We are free! We are free!

Like the songs of a bird at the break of day,
Like the wind in the leaves of a tree,
Like the waves as they break on a coral shore,
We are free! We are free! We are free!

Independence has come, now we all must work
To unite Papua New Guinea,
We shall build our new nation in peace and love,
We are free! We are free! We are free!
We are free! We are free! We are free!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:14 PM

    Music is like part of our culture since the ancient times. In modern times even PNG pop musicians have taken pride in our national identity. Names like Oshen and the also the late musicians like Blasius Touna and John Wong to name a few.

    Musicians in that light have been like a journalist that can speak into the national consciousness and motivate the people. Like in the words of one of Oshen songs "Music is like a Weapon of Mass Instruction."

    While books are for the literate readers and are tossed aside once read through, music with a message is timeless and can speak its message for generations. Music is like the barometer of a nation. If you want to know what a people of a generation feel, listen to the music they listen to. This song on youtube is a nice national songs to listen to during this years celebrations.