Review: Small Island Big Sound, Our Island

by Jesse Bowman Bruchac
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a performance of Small Island Big Sound, Our Island, at Middlebury College on March 8th. As a citizen of the Nulhegan Abenaki Nation of Vermont and Director of the Middlebury Language School of Abenaki, I was also asked to offer a welcome in the language and share some music with the group.
I was warmly greeted by all. From the publicity I saw about the show, I was prepared for something extraordinary, and it did not fail to exceed my expectations. I was so impressed by the indigenous language interwoven throughout the program in spoken word and all the musical offerings.
The program’s overarching message, a call to action, clearly illustrates our connection to one another and the urgency and responsibility to work together to save our shared Island, this beautiful blue planet.
It is such an entertaining show, perfect for all ages. The group performed masterfully on traditional drums, made of skin, wood, and steel, on hypnotically beautiful flutes (including a nose flute), which more often than not evoked the sound and spirit of nature (from the birds to the wind to the water), as well as stringed instruments, including a twelve-stringed ukulele. During often heart-throbbing percussive songs inspired by the Pacific & Indian Ocean indigenous cultures, each member of the seven-person group would step forward while backed by the other performers.
The inclusion of breathtaking videography behind them, telling so much of the story behind the impactful music, was highly effective and extremely well-produced and executed.
The songs were heartfelt; they often demanded that we dance. A good number of the audience members did just that, with an area set up along the side to pulsate to these songs. The dancing from different Pacific & Indian Ocean and African traditions presented on stage was inspirational and breathtaking at times, with flips and the highest levels of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian cultural practice – that can be interpreted as tradition, sport, and even as an art form.
I have included some of the tiny part I offered below; there is so much more in this family-friendly show than in this short video. Be sure to catch a performance and be prepared to be deeply moved and transformed by the experience.
Upcoming East Coast Performance Schedule:
March 15th: Providence, RI

March 21st: East Lansing, MI

March 25th: Shippensburg, PA

March 29th: Pittsburgh, PA