A Conversation with Bao Bao Chen: Small Island Big Song’s Journey of Cultural Unity

Written by on March 23, 2024

Ronnie and Noelani from Daybreak Star Radio recently had the privilege of interviewing Bao Bao Chen, one of the driving forces behind the transformative project, Small Island Big Song. In this captivating conversation, Chen shared insights into the project’s mission, journey, and the profound impact it’s had on both the artists involved and audiences worldwide.

Small Island Big Song, as Chen eloquently described, is a multi-platform endeavor that transcends borders and cultures, uniting seafaring communities across the Pacific and Indian Oceans through the universal language of music. Motivated by a deep concern for the ocean and the environmental challenges faced by these communities, Chen and her collaborator Tim Cole embarked on a three-year journey, traversing islands and continents to record artists on their homelands.

During the interview, Chen illuminated the project’s narrative, highlighting the shared ancestry of the Austronesian migration and the cultural connections that bind these diverse communities together. Through the recording process, artists were invited to share songs that represent their cultural heritage, played on traditional instruments and sung in indigenous languages—a testament to the project’s commitment to authenticity and inclusivity.

Chen also shared the producing/engineering principles that guided the project, emphasizing the importance of capturing the raw authenticity of acoustic instruments and indigenous languages. From the lush landscapes of Aotearoa to the remote villages of Madagascar, every recording session was imbued with a sense of reverence for the land and its people.

As the interview unfolded, Chen spoke passionately about the project’s broader mission—to raise awareness about the urgent need for environmental stewardship and cultural preservation. Through the power of music, Small Island Big Song serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring audiences to embrace tradition, community, and a sustainable future.

In closing, the conversation left Ronnie, Noelani, and listeners alike feeling inspired and uplifted by the vision and dedication of Bao Bao Chen and the Small Island Big Song team. Their journey of cultural unity serves as a reminder of the transformative power of music to foster connection, understanding, and positive change in an increasingly divided world.

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