George Mamua Telek, or Telek as he is known to his legion of fans throughout the world, has long been at the forefront of the PNG music scene. Whether it is through his work with the village-based Moab Stringband, legendary 80’s rock band Painim Wok, his various collaborations, or critically acclaimed solo output, George Telek is one of the most important performers in the Pacific region. George Telek's songs and his hauntingly beautiful voice traverse many musical styles capturing the spirit of the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea. Blending contemporary grooves with Melanesian rhythms, the music is enriched with island harmonies and textured environmental sounds.
Telek’s vibrant career over the last four decades has included receiving an ARIA Award, being awarded an MBE for services to the development of music culture and industry in PNG, releasing music on Peter Gabriel’s Real World record label in the UK, collaborations with Archie Roach, Kev Carmody and David Bridie, and praise from renowned publications such as Rolling Stone, The Times (UK) and Billboard USA.
The title of the new album Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai) includes the languages Tok Pisin and Kuanua, referencing Telek’s recent recovery from a long fought battle with mouth cancer, which preceded the recent years of absence from touring and recording due to the global pandemic. Whilst in the Gold Coast to perform at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, George was diagnosed with a highly aggressive cancer on his mouth which required immediate surgery, followed by radiation therapy with a long recovery period.
Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai) is the first album Sir George has recorded in his home base of Rabaul since the volcano Tavurvur destroyed the town (including its recording studios) back in 1994. For this album Telek teamed up with his former bandmates from Painim Wok, with legendary guitarist Sir John Warbat, drummer Henry Maniot, and bass player John "Pooger" Yass. The album was mixed by Simon Polinksi (Yothu Yindi, Paul Kelly) who recorded and mixed Telek’s self-titled album in 1997, which received an ARIA Award for Best World Music Album.
Telek believes in the power of song. Album opener, Noken Paitim Meri (English translation: No violence against your woman) is a powerful ballad, where Telek speaks directly to other Papua New Guinean men that domestic violence is abhorrent and acceptable under no circumstances. The vocal is yearning and heartfelt, the chorus epic. On Gadin Kaikai, Telek joins up with his long-time associates the Moab Stringband, another song of advocacy that extols the virtues of a village based garden diet. Giraun Em I Laif, a contemporary island reggae tune, underscores the message that your customary land is your livelihood. Ramkuk is a traditional Gunantuna song performed in stringband style about the power a magical spirit bird has over you. Lus Lo Solwara is dedicated to the families and friends of the ENBP officials who lost their lives in the boat disaster at Wide Bay Pomio. Whilst centering around Telek’s unique vocal sound and style, Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai) is full of lush Melanesian harmonies and instrumentation that provide a joyous underlay.
Telek's eagerly awaited upcoming album Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai) will be released on October 7th, 2022 through Wantok Musik.
Closer in style to Australian Aboriginal music than anything Asian. Using acoustic guitar, traditional drums, and three-part harmonies sung in his native Tolai language as well as pidgin English, the mixture is surprisingly accessible.
Telek's voice on its own is a thing of rare beauty.
[Sunday Times UK]
...a very appealing traditional/world pop fusion.