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Vanuatu singer-songwriter Tio Bang Massing writes from a spot that few nonetheless keep in mind.

He tries to dwell there too, with an virtually Buddha-like simplicity, in a makeshift residence tucked among the many roots of a sprawling banyan tree.

Massing has been performing most of his grownup life, as a founding member of Vanuatu’s famend fireplace dance troupe, and as one of many anchors of Dropvkal Groove, a roots music collective.

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



Tio Massing performing in Vanuatu’s famend fireplace present, again in 2013. {Photograph}: Dan McGarry/The Guardian

However now he has emerged – from his first ever go to inside a recording studio – with a debut album, Sorousian, drawing inspiration from his volcanic residence island of Ambrym, in addition to his new arboreal place on Efate island.

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

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

Black Butterfly, Massing’s first single, is about, ostensibly, a black butterfly. However the metaphor runs deeper, invoking the fleeting evanescence of the creature’s existence when he sings: “I’m nonetheless dwelling, so I have to sing, for the voices that may’t be heard any extra.”

Is Massing the black butterfly? “Possibly I’m one of many black butterflies, one of many individuals who dream to dwell free with the land,” he tells the Guardian.

Black Butterfly

“However it doesn’t actually work as we speak. It’s a dream … everybody loves it, they’re speaking about it, however I’m not dwelling it. One thing all of us declare to like, one thing all of us say we wish. One thing we don’t have the braveness and the frailty to be,” Massing says. “That’s the life I named black butterfly.”

Residing in Vanuatu, the nation ranked probably the most susceptible on earth to pure disasters and the impacts of local weather change, the surroundings, its decay and its fragility, are recurrent themes.

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

He finds music – or relatively music finds him – all over the place.

Tio Massing performing



Tio Massing performing {Photograph}: Dan McGarry/The Guardian

“What is occurring round evokes me to share my world by means of music. And I’m representing communities of different individuals as nicely,” he says, akin to in Morning Star Bae Kam, a paean to Melanesian neighbour West Papua’s wrestle for independence, the place he urges a continued resilience: “This track is the wrestle/The wrestle is that this track.”

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

It’s an unhurried existence 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 nervous that his magpie lyrics will go away individuals behind?

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

However will individuals perceive? “Possibly, or possibly not… like, if I get one particular person out of the gang, then that’s alright, ? If somebody is making an attempt to consider what I’m making an attempt to see, then that’s all proper. And if it’s nobody, that’s all proper.”

He smiles broadly, “This album is form of like an experiment of the native music of Vanuatu.”

Tio Massing performing at Vila fest in 2019



Tio Massing acting at Vila fest in 2019 {Photograph}: Dan McGarry/The Guardian

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

Mumbwe, Massing’s second single, is derived from from the customized of his residence island of Ambrym. The naked bones melody is a transforming of a track used within the Rom customary dance Massing used to look at as a toddler. The language used within the track is misplaced from on a regular basis use, however preserved in track.

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

Recording Sorousian was Massing’s first ever time in a studio, and there’s quaint juxtaposition to the album that point has produced. The album, now, lives all over the place, on streaming providers to each nook of the globe: Massing stays at residence, beneath the banyan tree, simply dwelling.



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