LATE night radio listening can unhinge even the sternest of iron-clad hearts.
The nocturnal audience across the Land of the Unexpected are plunged to the depths of melancholia then swiftly lurched to the heights of unshakeable assertiveness all in the space of nine minutes.
Disc jockeys are unsparing when exercising their powers as gadflies of emotional tranquillity.
But, whilst international radio stations cue playlists of trending hits and vocal artists, the Papua New Guinean music palette remains transfixed to the echoes of days gone by.
To the music of the 80’s and 90’s we cling as ardent lovers.
Electric keyboard and legato-phrased verses of yesteryear are steadfast in their tenacious embrace. It’s the hat trick of heart-rending lyrics, inflection of voice and long back, short front-and-sides that has proved reason to resist the temptress of staccato genres. Decade after decade.
Faithfully, Richard Marx’s Endless Summer Night is strummed into daily resurrection and Roxette keeps us pondering whether ‘It Must’ve Been Love’ and exactly how it was lost. All the while, self-imposed life sentences are served out within the Steel Bars of a former mullet-sporting crooner. He tells us he’s ‘found forever’. Michael Bolton’s lingering, never to be liquefied.
From the daily school run to weekend family kaikai, these pop songs served as the backdrop to my childhood. Add Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ to this soundtrack, and my memory is awash with the so- unnecessary yet mandatory fotnait celebrations.
Payday signalled generations of male relatives filing through kapa fences, each shouldering a katen of lukewarm, bottled concoctions. With vocal cords lubricated, renditions of Steve Perry’s musical plea ensued. Butchered. Repeatedly. Late into the night.
But, whether in fluid prose or indecipherable babble, there’s a poignant cadence here.
Never mind lyrical interpretation of the full song. The efforts of the grossly inebriated to dig deep (vocally and financially) on pay day to deliver those infamous three words has, alone, imprinted tune and lyric in the heart of the Papua New Guinean child of the 1980’s. Well, this one anyway.
Reborn under the vocal acrobatics of the cast of the US TV series Glee, that legacy is now etched into the hearts of my impressionable cherubs. Propped with melamine serving spoon ‘microphones’ and fumbled choreography, the family living room floor has played centre stage to near-perfect recitals of Finn (Corey Monteith) and Rachel’s (Lea Michele) signature duet.
Sure, I get the prompting a five-year old to deliver ‘singer in a smoky room, smell of wine and cheap perfume’. It brings back memories of pint-sized Papua New Guinean children sauntering along streets, bellowing at the top of their tiny lungs that they be given ‘it’ so they can be taken to ‘paradise’ (read: domestic band Skwatas’ crowd-pleaser ‘Take Me to Paradise’). And no one bats an eyelid.
I’m just sayin’….
So, in the same way it’s intrigued me that every pay day needed (and I daresay, still needs) a celebration, a song of the Ages.
I mean, do you think Journey envisioned the precision with which Papua New Guineans would imitate the art of ‘working hard to get my fill, everybody wants the thrill’ into their (fortnightly) reality?
Why has this song secured a permanence to reverberate across the airwaves of the motherland? And why was it a favourite song choice of mid-week party sponsors whose late-night karaoke was incessant as the howling of neighbourhood dogs?
Maybe it’s the same reason why I’d insisted that my eldest, at the age of four and hindered with a speech impediment, recite the song, lyric-by-lyric. Across 15 months, countless nights in front of the bathroom mirror undertaking speech therapy homework exercises.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, tongue tucked neatly behind a mismatched wall of baby and adult teeth to form and shape letters. In between tears of frustration and accomplishment, vowels and consonants were shaped and practised to sound out ‘snail’, ‘sink’, ‘ship’. Until finally …. a perfect sequence of ‘shadows searching in the n--ight’.
Why ‘Don’t Stop Believing’? Because it is an anthem. Three infectious words that spell h-o-p-e.
Something we all need every day and not just once a fortnight. And so I really hope ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ always ‘goes on and on and on and on’ across Papua New Guinea.