Indigenous Musicians from the Blue Continent Unite to Sing for our Changing Seas
January 29, 2024

 

International performance collective Small Island Big Song spotlights Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations on the front lines of climate change through sweeping cinematography and deep musical heritage

Providence, RI—FirstWorks, an arts nonprofit celebrating 20 years of connecting art with audiences, announces an artist residency and public performance by international performance collective Small Island Big Song. Prominent Indigenous artists from island nations spread across the vast Pacific and Indian Oceans unite to play their traditional instruments, sing in their native languages and collaborate musically against a backdrop of cinematic footage filmed in their homelands. Five days of workshops and conversations in the community will culminate in a public performance at The Strand Ballroom and Theatre on Friday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. Concert tickets are available online at firstworks.org and at the Strand Box Office at 401-618-8900.

“We’re thrilled to bridge this ocean-spanning performance project with Providence, said Kathleen Pletcher, Executive Artistic Director of FirstWorks. As we celebrate FirstWorks’ 20th anniversary in 2024 with a Global Journeys theme, we connect artists and ideas from around the world to the creative communities outside our own front door. The ‘Artivists’ of Small Island Big Song dazzle us with the beauty of their island homes, while moving us to examine our own relationship to climate and the ocean. Stay tuned for more amazing experiences in 2024!”

Small Island Big Song is a music, film and performing arts project uniting the islands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean through artistic collaboration. This contemporary musical statement hails from a region that shares both an ancient seafaring heritage and the impact of rising seas due to climate change. The live performance, “Our Island,” brings together some of the most prominent artists of Taiwan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, and Tahiti. These unique lineages, mixed with diverse musical styles — from roots-reggae, to beats, folk and spoken-word, establish a dialogue between cultures to confront contemporary issues of identity and climate with a hope-driven vision of the future.

Project co-creators and couple BaoBao Chen, a Taiwanese theater producer, and Tim Cole, an Australian music producer and filmmaker, quit their jobs after learning of the predicted effects of climate change to the oceanic nations. They spent the following eight years recording and filming with over a hundred artists on sixteen island nations, layering up songs from island to island. Outcomes of this incredible journey include two award-winning albums, a feature film, an impact program and two world-touring productions.

As part of their in-depth FirstWorks residency in the community, Small Island Big Song artists will perform an in-school matinee for high school students at Mt. Pleasant High School and will lead workshops for K-12 students at schools in Narragansett and Providence. Additional programs will be announced.

In an expression of the global unity needed to confront climate change, local Indigenous community representatives Samantha Cullen-Fry (Narragansett) and Lynsea Montanari (Narragansett) from Rhode Island’s Tomaquag Museum Indigenous Empowerment Center will join the artists of Small Island Big Song on stage at The Strand on March 15 for an audience welcome song and land acknowledgement. Find more information on FirstWorks education and outreach programs at firstworks.org.

This residency with Small Island Big Song is made possible with support from FirstWorks’ “EarthWorks” program sponsors Rhode Island Energy, a PPL Company and Nordson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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