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George 'Toofie' Christian
Pilli Lornga N.I.
Coral Music

Christian opens this album with "N.I. Blues." With its gentle rhythm guitar, warm steel guitar, rolling bass and easy slapping percussion accompaniment, it's a blues, but it's also a laid back lament. A similar lineup, with the bubbling addition of a strummed ukulele, is featured on "Rhythm of the Hula." Flute and cello also make appearances elsewhere, but throughout Pilli Lornga N.I. the arrangements simply provide the perfect accompaniment for the performance of George 'Toofie' Christian.

The N.I. in question is Norfolk Island. Toofie has lived and worked there all his life and is a direct descendant of Fletcher Christian of the Mutiny on the Bounty fame. Sitting in the Pacific 1000 miles from Sidney, Australia, Norfolk gained a reputation as a fearful prison camp. It is now home to the descendants of the famed community that settled on the Pitcairns until it was moved to Norfolk Island in the mid-1800s.

He writes and sings about life as it is and was on the island; relationships, dance, food, whaling, shipwrecks, even about a tragic attempted escape from the convict era. Three songs are sung in English, sandwiched by eight in Norfolk, an English-Tahitian creole language. The detailed sleeve notes provide the lyrics, including a glossary of key terms.

A wistful, warm sadness permeates this collection of 11 songs. Civilization is slowly encroaching into this far-flung outcrop and things are changing, not necessarily for the better.

Pilli Lornga means 'sticking to' in Norfolk and, as this album shows, Christian is committed the island and its culture. He attempts to develop a character to the music of his people and time will tell how lasting the success of his efforts will be. Elements of Pacific cultures are apparent, especially in the instrumental work, and of Australia, too, particularly in the singing. But just as the hula appears to have been successfully reestablished since the second world war, Christian might be the vanguard of Norfolk folk song.

There is a charm and appeal to his music that makes you listen and pay attention; he sings with great expression, but no pretensions, about things that are important. - Jamie O'Brien

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