MARSHALL ISLANDS: Bijical - Les, Ned, & Sypher Anjolok
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
The brothers stay to true to their roots while adding a modern flavour to their debut album
Having recently watched the superb one-man show A Thousand Sons written and performed by Jamie Sefton, the theme of nuclear test detonations in the Pacific was fresh in my mind. It therefore felt rather serendipitous to be dipping my toes back into the music of the nation which played host to the radioactive atoll featured in the play. The Marshall Islands as a microstate did not have a plethora of studio albums available for us to listen to and so I was relieved when we finally came across brothers Ned, Les, and Sypher Anjolok’s debut album together Bijical. What I was even more pleased about was how the album seemed to fuse together the unique Micronesian feel with a modern twist without ever feeling like a total rip-off of Western music. Considering that the Marshall Islands doesn’t have copyright law, nor is it a member of any international convention on copyright, one might have expected the siblings to take the easy route and just steal some obviously Western sounding music; when one considers the countries close ties to the USA due to The Compact of Free Association it would have been unsurprising if they would have stolen just American music and claimed to have made it their own.
Yet, instead of utilising an overtly Western sound, the trio have kept a Pacific soul but in the same direction as much of the country’s policy, for example making SOV (a block-chain based currency) the new legal tender of the Marshall Islands, the music is looking to the future with a real modern sound. Though I got somewhat bored of the album due to its hefty length and sometimes repetitive rhythms, for example on tracks like Bubu Wot Kwe, there is, nonetheless, a lot of good electronic innovation on the album. For example, even though songs like Jaki start with a plinky-plonky sound, thus initially convincing the listener that it would contain a different flavour, it transforms into an electronic island tune. Ejjab Nana which begins as a party anthem has a great transition between chorus and verse. Though some tracks are a bit too auto-tuned for my liking, such as Bilo¸ I do love some of the soulful harmonising that can be heard especially on Am Rol Tok. The group’s spin on Pacific-reggae is certainly enjoyable in small doses and once again serves as proof that bridging together the past and the present is so often a winning formula.
“...isolated songs enjoyed on their own are perfectly fun and enjoyable.”
It has not always been easy finding music from Oceania. The larger states like Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands were all a doddle, but countries like Nauru, Palau, and Kiribati proved a greater challenge, though in some ways we got lucky in finding Bijical by brothers Les, Ned, and Sypher Anjolok, all of whom hail from the Micronesian island nation of the Marshall Islands. After a brief verification from the brothers themselves, we had found our Marshallese album, and in the context of the rest of the albums from Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia, it is one of the better ones we’ve found. The style of the piece is firmly in the type of soft island vibes that sound like a Pacific Island version of reggae, and that’s a sound that is very popular in the region, with other Pacific Islander musicians like Sharzy and Jamoa Jam having made a success of the genre, and the Anjoloks have done a pretty good job at putting their own mark on the genre by adding modern production values, synths, and drum machines. While I can’t pretend it’s my favourite genre of music, it certainly has its charms. Coming in at a hefty 71 minutes long, it is probably longer than it necessarily needs to be, but the brothers are clearly having fun on the album. That said, I did find it a slog to listen to all the way through from start to finish, so as a contiguous whole, it isn’t the best, but isolated songs enjoyed on their own are perfectly fun and enjoyable. There are undoubtedly things we are missing when we listen to this album – there is a spoken word introduction in the form of voicemail messages that I obviously don’t understand – and perhaps those little touches help explain the album further, but as it stands, from an outsider looking in, it’s fine for what it is, and in small doses it’s fun.