'This song is the struggle': Vanuatu's treehouse troubadour on love, loss and language

Vanuatu singer-songwriter Tio Bang Massing writes from a spot that few nonetheless take into account.

He tries to reside there too, with a virtually Buddha-like simplicity, in a makeshift house tucked some of the roots of a sprawling banyan tree.

Massing has been acting maximum of his grownup lifestyles, as a founding member of Vanuatu’s famend fireplace dance troupe, and as one of the vital anchors of Dropvkal Groove, a roots track collective.

Tio Massing performing in Vanuatu’s renowned fire show, back in 2013.



Tio Massing acting in Vanuatu’s famend fireplace display, again in 2013. Photograph: Dan McGarry/The Dad or mum

However now he has emerged – from his first ever seek advice from within a recording studio – with a debut album, Sorousian, drawing inspiration from his volcanic house island of Ambrym, in addition to his new arboreal position on Efate island.

The album was once produced by means of Wantok Data, a Brisbane-based label that specialises in fostering indigenous skill from Melanesia and Timor.

Studio head David Bridie was once one in every of Sorousian’s manufacturers. Massing, he says, “is a simple artist, in the best way he sings and performs guitar … he comes up with those very textured vocal layers, provides in overdubs of shakers and tam tam and percussion”.

Black Butterfly, Massing’s first unmarried, is set, ostensibly, a black butterfly. However the metaphor runs deeper, invoking the fleeting evanescence of the creature’s life when he sings: “I’m nonetheless dwelling, so I should sing, for the voices that may’t be heard any longer.”

Is Massing the black butterfly? “Perhaps I’m one of the vital black butterflies, one of the vital individuals who dream to reside loose with the land,” he tells the Dad or mum.

Black Butterfly

“However you understand it doesn’t truly paintings these days. It’s a dream … everybody loves it, they’re speaking about it, however I’m no longer dwelling it. One thing all of us declare to like, one thing all of us say we would like. One thing we don’t have the braveness and the frailty to be,” Massing says. “That’s the lifestyles I named black butterfly.”

Dwelling in Vanuatu, the rustic ranked essentially the most inclined on earth to herbal failures and the affects of local weather exchange, the surroundings, its decay and its fragility, are recurrent subject matters.

“I’ve to do one thing for this earth, in addition to for the following technology: for my children and their children, you already know?”, Massing says.

He reveals track – or somewhat track reveals him – far and wide.

Tio Massing performing



Tio Massing acting Photograph: Dan McGarry/The Dad or mum

“What is going on round conjures up me to percentage my global via track. And I’m representing communities of other folks as neatly,” he says, reminiscent of in Morning Famous person Bae Kam, a paean to Melanesian neighbour West Papua’s battle for independence, the place he urges a persisted resilience: “This track is the battle/The battle is that this track.”

At the outskirts of Port Vila, Massing has constructed himself a unmarried tiny room out of bamboo and cast-off timbers tucked into the roots of a towering banyan tree, identified in Vanuatu as a nambanga.

It’s an unhurried life in his treehouse, an environment that informs his songwriting.

Massing’s songs shift from line to line between Vanuatu pidgin Bislama, Ambrymese, and English. Is he fearful that his magpie lyrics will depart folks at the back of?

It’s what I imagine in, what I’m seeing.”

However will folks perceive? “Perhaps, or perhaps no longer… like, if I am getting one particular person out of the group, then that’s alright, you already know? If any individual is attempting to consider what I’m looking to see, then that’s all proper. And if it’s no person, that’s all proper.”

He smiles extensively, “This album is more or less like an experiment of the native track of Vanuatu.”

Tio Massing performing at Vila fest in 2019



Tio Massing functioning at Vila fest in 2019 Photograph: Dan McGarry/The Dad or mum

In polyglot Vanuatu, language is a potent bearer of historical past, and customized, and position.

Mumbwe, Massing’s 2nd unmarried, is derived from from the customized of his house island of Ambrym. The naked bones melody is a remodeling of a track used within the Rom standard dance Massing used to observe as a kid. The language used within the track is misplaced from on a regular basis use, however preserved in track.

“That,” Massing says quietly, “is the type of experimenting I’ve been doing.”

Recording Sorousian was once Massing’s first ever time in a studio, and there may be old fashioned juxtaposition to the album that point has produced. The album, now, lives far and wide, on streaming services and products to each and every nook of the globe: Massing stays at house, underneath the banyan tree, simply dwelling.

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