"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."
– Bob Marley
It was indeed a bit of...overkill to make both a front and wholly impractical back cover for the Survival 101 mixtape that was arranged and assembled by yours truly. But once the inspiration had taken hold to make a pop art-style 'remix' cover based on Neville Garrick's design for the classic Bob Marley and the Wailer's album Survival (1979), I couldn't stop until the idea was fully exhausted.
Neville Garrick's cover, which brilliantly illustrated the visionary message of "Africa Unite", the lead track on side two of the Wailer's album, featured the flags of the 41 nations that made up the African continent at that time. But it also united with those nations the flag of Papua New Guinea, one of several distant island sisters to the African continent in the South Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away.
As a teen, when I got my first copy of the Survival LP on 12" vinyl, I knew virtually nothing at all about "PNG", beyond the very eerie fact that its inhabitants – who live on an immense landmass a few thousand nautical miles away from the continental home of my own ancestors – somehow looked a helluva' lot like me and my 'bredren'.
As an adult, around the time that I had somehow acquired a second copy of Survival on CD, I felt both genetically and intellectually compelled to become more informed about those distant cousins who inhabit the second largest island on our planet. The process taught me much about them, but also much about the people living on neighboring islands in the region. And, in the years since, I've written a little bit about what I've learned. Someday those writings will see the light of day. But, for now, back to the making of this mixtape's front and back covers.
After deciding to make what would be an abridged remix of Garrick's inspirational piece, I began a brief study of the original Survival album. It was at this point that I learned (or became reminded) that the flag of Papua had been included in the original design, and that surprising fact only doused gasoline on the idea that burned within to make a modern remix version of the cover. But one that would have not only the flag of PNG but the other flags of Melanesia as well.
And so, along with the flag of Papua, the flag of its struggling conjoined twin sister West Papua was added. Following those, the flags of the other Melanesian islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia (Kanaky), Fiji and the Solomon Islands were promptly applied. And with the mixtape cover quickly beginning to take proper shape, it seemed only fitting to then include the flags of the nearby Torres Strait Islands and that of the aboriginal peoples of Australia and Tasmania. For similar reasons, the flags of the neighboring Timor-Leste and Maluku Islands were added.
After the flags of the Melanesian and related nations, the flags of 16 African countries were chosen due to either historical or aesthetic reasons. These include those of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau (the West African region after which PNG was named), Ethiopia, Zaire, Kenya, Liberia, and others. The last to be added were the "red, black and green" Pan-African flag of African descendants in North America, and the flag of Jamaica, the Caribbean island birthplace of reggae music and Bob Marley.
Pleased with how the front turned out, I wasn't ready to stop. Nostalgia reminded me of how the back cover of the original Survival album had always made me feel when I looked at it; the sense of unknown history that it hinted at and the sense of connection I somehow felt to the people in the grainy black and white photographs displayed there. And so I tried to convey a similar sense of mystery -- and history -- with old photographs showing people from Papua New Guinea (top & bottom), Fiji (left) and the Solomon Islands (right).
I hope that some of what I was trying to convey with it all somehow comes across.
From start to finish, this mixtape project was a long and gratifying labor of love. But I also had tons of help from various 'surrogates' who didn't know that they were involved. These include the previously mentioned Mr. Garrick, and the small number of bloggers and DJs whose active promotion of Pacific Island music in recent years has exposed me to several artists whose music I now treasure. So massive "big ups" specifically to Street-vibez Mozikk, Solomon Vibz, FreeSolomonMusic, Massive Entertainment, and the Reggae Revolution Radio Show.
I also want to say 'nuff respect and many thanks to all of the artists whose music has been featured on the Survival 101 mixtape. The intention behind this compilation is only to further promote and bring awareness to folks in America and elsewhere about this too-little-discussed part of our planet (Melanesia) and the fantastic branch of reggae that emanates from its breathtaking isles.
If you download and find yourself enjoying the tunes on this mixtape, please support those few fortunate artists whose music is available through Amazon and iTunes. In the meantime, have fun with this small sampling of what Pacific Island reggae has to offer.
"Riddem Selekta St. Paco"