Taporak’s Travels

Paths of Transmission of a Piece of Music from a Remote Island Repertoire


  • Tony Lewis University of New England




cultural ownership, garamut, musical transmission, Papua New Guinea


This article investigates how a short piece of music from a remote island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has ended up in the recorded repertoire of two Australian music ensembles. It traces the routes and processes by which the piece has been incorporated into a contemporary setting located at some distance from its place of origin. The piece, known to the author as ‘Taporak’, is from the garamut (log idiophone) repertoire of the Manus Province of PNG, which the author encountered and documented during his doctoral research in Baluan Island in Manus. Through interviews with key people, the article investigates how two Australian ensembles came to know this piece, how they have interpreted or adapted it for their particular musical contexts and artistic/cultural ideals, what kinds of cultural and cognitive considerations they may be applying in the process, and what artistic decisions they have made to fit the work into their extant repertoire. Amongst other things, each group’s broader identity is brought into sharp relief as the pieces are adapted and used in new contexts of performance and recording.

Author Biography

Tony Lewis, University of New England

Tony Lewis is a musician and academic based in Sydney, Australia. His areas of academic interest are musical traditions that exhibit considerable rhythmic complexity, and he completed his doctoral thesis on one such topic—the garamut (log idiophone) drumming of Baluan Island, Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. He lectures in music at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales.


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How to Cite

Lewis, T. (2015). Taporak’s Travels: Paths of Transmission of a Piece of Music from a Remote Island Repertoire. Journal of World Popular Music, 2(1), 40–60. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.v2i1.27170



Technology and Ownership