TUVALU: Te Masina Ite Po - Magic Bobo ft DJ Toa
The Polynesian pair perform palatable Pacific pop
Tuvalu, the 4th smallest country in the world, with a population of only around 10,000 people, we had imagined would prove to be a challenge in finding an album, though we were undeterred after having found an album from all the other Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian states. Our searches came up with a few albums of traditional chanting and music mostly recorded by Western ethnomusicologists, and while those did technically fulfil our criteria of a studio album from Tuvalu, we felt it was also a bit of a cop out, considering it was not really music made for listening, rather for research purposes, as well as recorded and released by non-Tuvaluans. Our further digging revealed this rather pleasant album Te Masina Ite Po was from Tuvaluan artists Magic Bobo and DJ Toa, which we decided would make for a suitable replacement. The album itself is nice, and I quite like it, but it is somewhat repetitive after a while. It is all very comfortably in the Pacific Island pop vibe that musicians such as Sharzy or the Tongareva Five have made their own and popularised across that part of the world. There is not a huge amount of variation in style, however. While that is not a necessity for a good album; indeed, AC/DC have basically remade the same song over and over again for 50 years, and I’d never hold it against them, and while I don’t begrudge Magic Bobo and co for sticking with music they like and are comfortable with, it’s just not a style I particularly adore. That said, if you do like the style, there’s plenty of music here that you will click with. If not, you might have to make do with a few isolated songs here and there. A few favourites of mine are the opener, Melemele (Tuvalu Toku Atu Fenua), which has a lovely choral a cappella introduction, as well as the title track, which has an almost country music twang to it, which was a surprise, but a welcome one. In addition, Noa Atu Oku Lima is also a good tune, with a reggae backbeat and a charming guitar introduction. And so, while it may not convert you into being a Pacific music aficionado, there’s more than enough quality for me to say it’s worth your time dipping into the music of one of the world’s smallest nations.
“...there’s more than enough quality for me to say it’s worth your time dipping into the music of one of the world’s smallest nations.”
To give you a peak behind the wizard’s curtain, these reviews, though they may often not seem like it, typically are written with some research behind them. We often like to get a better idea about the artist before we write about them, however in the case of Magic Bobo and his collaborator DJ TOA, all we know is that they hail from the world’s fourth smallest country Tuvalu. There is, of course, an irony to the fact that the duo have such a low-key online presence, considering that the pacific nation has made its riches via the internet by winning the domain name lottery having been awarded the rather lucrative .tv. Despite the mystery that lie behind the pair, fortunately we have an album that although not my favourite of all-time has some interesting facets to it nonetheless. The record kicks off with Melemele (Tuvalu Toku Atu Fenua) which almost has a spiritual opener to the track with its choral style vocals before the drop. This is a style they opt for throughout the record, with Tenei Te Tamaliki being another notable example. On the aforementioned opening track we are introduced to the autotuned vocals which the pair use throughout the album. Personally, I am not a great fan of this choice but each to their own. The title-track Te Masina Ite Po is much more in keeping with more traditional Pacific Islander pop which they turn to throughout, perhaps at its peak on the album during Fakamenoemoega Ota Loto a tune which sounds like what one would imagined to be played at a Hawaiin luau. There are some reggae-adjacent tunes such as Koe He Fuatahi and my favourite song Asu E Toka Mo Koe (Chief Zazu) which sneakily deceives the listener with an organ-opener before its sweet reggae beats come in. The album also contains tunes with latin-infused rhythms on Funafuti Te Fagasele (Malefatuga) and the high-energy closer Fafine Gatu Kula is not too dissimilar from soca music. Overall, whilst it is not exactly an album that reinvents the wheel, it certainly has its moments to be enjoyed.