The world gets bigger and smaller at the same time as we continue our travels and programs with American Voices Abroad. We went from the bustling big city of Kuala Lumpur, full of major brand stores, shopping malls, hotels and a friendly cosmopolitan vibe to VANUATU. To get there, fly from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. Hang overnight and another day from Sydney to Vanuatu. It’s a group of 80+ islands Northeast of Australia. Port Vila is the largest “city”.
It took Marcy under a day to find some great local musicians, right here at our hotel. This local string band plays 2 five- string guitars (on purpose), a home made ukulele, a homemade box bass and tambourine. So of course, we jammed, traded some songs and plan to send them one of our washboards. We’ll post more of their music soon, but here’s a taste.
On Sat., Jan. 19 we performed at a local park right next to the marketplace. It would be fair to say that few people here had seen a band like ours with fiery fiddle, hot licks on guitar and the intergalactic banjo. Cathy also spent some time making friends in the nearby playground.
Watch the Maluarua String Band here
On Sunday afternoon, we traveled over some rocky roads, hairpin turns and beautiful foliage to a small village called Eratap. The people in Erapat live a very simple life-very simple homes ranging from shacks and lean-tos to a more formal structures, such as the church, which is the center of the community. The pastor summoned the community with the church bell. He then gave a blessing and introduced us. The room was airy and spacious, and full of families. They were a shy audience, but very appreciative. Barbara was nursing an illness, so we launched into a 90-minute duo sing-along, show and tell, yodel along experience. People sang, yodeled and once again, LOVED the percussive washboard. Here’s local friend Henry joining us on the washboard.
Monday morning we headed to town to Billy’s Music for a workshop with guitar and other students. Henry found his way the 15 miles from Erapat and he and Marcy started right in on learning new chords and scales. He is really talented. A few other local musicians joined us and loved learning about the banjo, mandolin and fiddle. We all played Bob Marley’s “One Love”, a great common song in our repertoires. The song only has 4 notes and Henry started improvising like a pro. We’d love to see him learn at some of our US Guitar camps, so if anyone wants to help sponsor him, holler at us (email@example.com)
This is one of the locations for Peace Corps to do its work and Elise has become an appreciated member of the community. She’s learned to speak the local pigeon and native languages.
After the show, we visited for about an hour, letting kids and adults check out the instruments. A few locals played the uke and spent some time showing younger kids how to play. Marcy gave a guitar lesson to Henry. Henry was playing in a new band as we first walked into the church and asked us to show them some music.
Kids also tried out the lariat rope tricks and a few got pretty darn good. We packed up, but joined the community for a while during their evening church service, listening to some beautiful singing and heartfelt spirit.
Monday morning we headed to town to Billy’s Music for a workshop with guitar and other students. Henry found his way the 15 miles from Erapat and he and Marcy started right in on learning new chords and scales. He is really talented. A few other local musicians joined us and loved learning about the banjo, mandolin and fiddle.
We all played Bob Marley’s “One Love”, a great common song in our repertoires. The song only has 4 notes and Henry started improvising like a pro. We’d love to see him learn at some of our US Guitar camps, so if anyone wants to help sponsor him, holler at us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monday afternoon we explored the local market. It is jam packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, often sold in newly made leaf-baskets. The women put a straw mat on the floor behind their booths and call it home from Monday through Sat. afternoon. Kids are helping sell, chop or prepare bunches of produce for sale. Babies hang with their moms. Everyone visits and by Saturday at noon, almost everything is gone and everyone goes home to start over again on Monday.
Like Malaysia, there is a general friendliness and good vibe here. Our trip has been facilitated by Natalia from the U.S. Embassy and her husband Jeff. They’ve proven to be great hosts. They live in PNG, so they have also learned a lot on this trip to Vanuatu.
Would we return? Definitely-we would love to return armed with 25 ukes, James Hill’s ukulele course and a few spare guitars. Maybe that’ll happen sometime. Meantime, we’ve got some great new friends and have promised to stay in touch.
2 days of travel to the next stop- Papua New Guinea.