Product Review | Roots of the Pacific

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Article Rating
 
Sound on Sound Magazine 3 out of 5
 
From the tropical paradise of Hawaii comes this 69-track, 73-minute audio CD from the Californian sample producers Big Fish Audio. Selling itself as a sort of sonic guided tour of the Hawaiian Islands, it honourably explores an area of music yet to be covered in the sample CD world, presenting its recordings as a series of performances listed with appropriate tempos. The vast majority of the disc is taken up with drumming patterns, featuring both solo and ensemble performances of varying sizes.

A wide range of great-sounding exotic percussion instruments is employed across the tracks, including the pahu (big bass drum), to'ere (log drum) and ka'eke (bamboo pipe drums). In general, the ensemble drum tracks work much better than the solo performances as they bring authentically powerful 'Hawaii Five-O' and 'Wipeout' percussive 'oomph' to any high-tempo track. The solo performances, however, are generally uninspiring, not very useful and desperately overlong. Musicologists will no doubt enjoy the rigid adherence to presenting drumming styles specific to each island (Cook Islands, Fiji, and Tahiti are all featured) but to the uninitiated, who I imagine will make up the majority of the audience, these categorisations are largely academic and will be of little or no help in finding the right drum pattern to suit their needs. The last 10 tracks of the CD feature a tiny scattering of sung phrases and a few uninspiring spoken-word recordings, finishing with three extended natural-ambience sound-effects tracks.

While Roots of the Pacific is a wonderful idea with some genuinely useful and inspiring moments, overall the lack of any true variety (no flutes, plucked instruments, choirs, usable tuned percussion and so on) lends the whole release a regrettable two-dimensional feel. Releases like Heart of Africa and Heart of Asia showed how to really get under the musical skin of a continent by encompasing large numbers of choirs, ensembles and a rich variety of soloists, but Roots' only real contribution is to provide a large set of (albeit authentic and expertly performed) Hawaiian drumming patterns. Unfortunately, this has been packaged as something of an Ethnic Musical Discovery Workstation -- something it most certainly is not. Anyone looking for percussion sounds and patterns recorded in and coming direct from paradise will find much of what they are looking for here, but the casual tourist in search of instant gratification or a quick fix of palatable and varied sampling fodder may need to look elsewhere.


 

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