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A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Lyle Skinner
Walkabout The World is an apt title for this reissue of a 1992 release from Sirocco, one of Australia's national icons and best-known worldbeat bands. Walkabout The World [formerly titled The Evergreen Realm] is an eclectic album that is inspired by many musical traditions ranging from Arab to Aboriginal to Celtic to Chinese. Sirocco has been performing its contemporary energetic style of multicultural Australian music since 1980. On "Walkabout The World", the four members of Sirocco (Andrew de Teliga, Bill O'Toole, Guy Madigan, and Doug Kelly) play a wide variety of modern and ancient instruments to create their own unique brand of World Music, including didgeridu, various bagpipes and whistles, and numerous stringed and percussion instruments.
On this recording, Sirocco is joined by a very special guest, Chinese bamboo flute virtuoso Chai Chang Ning, who hails from the prestigious Peking Conservatory. Having Ning involved in this album gives Walkabout The World a decided overall Oriental feel. Ning now lives in Australia and his unique sound can be heard in many films and recordings, including the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film, The Last Emperor.
Walkabout The World appropriately opens with a medieval-like procession that starts with flutes and drums, rises to a climax, and ends with bagpipes and electric guitars. The second track, Pacific, was written to mark Sirocco's many tours throughout the countries of the Pacific Rim; it features a mix of the Celtic pentatonic scale and the Australian aboriginal didgeridu. Marche Celtique is a sentimental waltz written by de Teliga to commemorate the many Celts who "immigrated" to Australia, either as convicts or settlers. Hey Rain is the one vocal track on this album and is a humorous look at life in Queensland during the 'wet' season. This track closes with a lively Celtic instrumental medley to get the toes a-tappin'.
Desert Shadows was written as a tribute to northern Australia's original peoples, the Aborigines, who continue to live, in the outback, as much as they have for thousands of years. The principal instrument featured prominently in the opening and closing parts of this track is once again the didgeridu. Track 6 consists of a haunting flute solo masterfully handled by Ning on the Chinese bamboo flute, while on Track 7, Ning is joined by drummer Guy Madigan for a unique flute and drum solo.
Walkabout The World closes with a 28-minute two-part musical journey into the environment of the Australian rainforest called The Evergreen Realm. This piece was first commissioned for the opening of the Tropical Centre in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. This is a great piece to close one's eyes to and visualize the images in a rainforest that the music conjures up. The first part takes one through a typical day in the Australian tropical rainforest, beginning with daybreak and the awakening of the birds of the forest and ending with nighttime. The mood of a day in the forest is suitably set by use of flutes, tin whistle, didgeridu and synthesizer. With the second part of this musical suite, Layers Of The Forest, Sirocco takes us on a journey through the various horizontal layers of rainforest vegetation. Once again the flutes and synthesizer along with the violin and drums set the mood for a mystical musical visit along the floor of the rainforest.
Overall, the excellent musicianship on Walkabout The World results in a vibrant and exciting mix that helps to extend the boundaries of World Music. While Sirocco's albums have not previously been widely available outside of Austral-Asia, Amicus International seeks to change this with its North American reissue of this classic Sirocco recording.
If you are familiar with Sirocco's special brand of Australian-style World Music, you will want to make sure that Walkabout The World is in your music collection. If you are a fan of world-beat music, and you have not heard of Sirocco or their music, give Walkabout The World a listen. It's offbeat and different enough not to disappoint.
Edited by David Schultz