Discover the shared & distinct musical collaborations of islander songkeepers from the Pacific and Indian Ocean as they voice concerns of a changing ocean

Small Island Big Song unites musicians of island nations through song, drawing from the shared seafaring heritage of the Pacific & Indian Oceans. The concert brings together some of the most prominent artists of Taiwan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tokelau/Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), performing songs they co-wrote over the past eight years, supported by live visuals with footage filmed over 16 island nations on a 3-year field trip.

Featuring:

  • Emlyn – Creole heritage, Mauritius (Songwriter & Performer)
  • Olivia Foa’i – Tokelau & Aotearoa, New Zealand (Songwriter & Performer)
  • Putad – Amis heritage, Taiwan (Songwriter & Performer)
  • Richard Mogu – Magi heritage, Papua New Guinea (Songwriter & Performer)
  • Sammy – Merina heritage, Madagascar (Songwriter & Performer)
  • Sauljaljui – Paiwan heritage, Taiwan (Songwriter & Performer)
  • Yoyo Tuki – Rapa Nui, Easter Island (Songwriter & Performer)
  • BaoBao Chen (Co-founder & Producer)
  • Tim Cole (Co-founder & Artistic Director)

Motivated by their concerns for the ocean, a couple, Taiwanese producer BaoBao Chen and Australian music producer/filmmaker Tim Cole, spent the past eight years recording and filming with artists on sixteen island nations, sharing songs from island to island. Outcomes include two award-winning albums, a feature film, and a concert.

“Culture is the framework through which we understand our relationship to our social and physical environments. It is our shared patterns of behavior, interactions, and beliefs. Fluid, ever evolving and whether we are aware of it or not, it is the core of our guiding personal narratives, our sense of self.

Our dominant global culture is failing us. Our planet’s natural ecosystem on which we depend for our very survival, is collapsing around us. The evidence is tangible, lived and indisputable. Yet we fail to respond with the resolve and urgency that nature, that our future generations demand, challenging and questioning our sense of self.

Those of the ocean have maintained successful communities on fragile islands for countless generations and their cultural lineage embodies this. Small Island Big Song is an ensemble of such people, artists who against all sensible mainstream cultural advice have made a choice to sing foremost in the language and maintain the musical sensibilities of their heritage. They are the songkeepers continuing an unbroken cultural lineage back to their first ancestors to step, sleep, die and be born on their homelands. Their music embodies this knowledge, and as with music itself it is only revealed through movement as it is shared, through your listening it lives.” – BaoBao Chen & Tim Cole

NYU Abu Dhabi currently chairs the Universities Climate Network, which comprises UAE-based universities and higher education institutions to facilitate dialogues, workshops, public events, policy briefs, and youth participation in the lead up to and beyond COP28. Presented in support of COP28.

Presented as part of the lead-up to COP28

Biographies

BaoBao Chen (Co-founder & Producer)

Having produced ’Small Island Big Song’ concert, albums, documentary, as well as curating world tours across 17 countries in Europe, the USA, Asia and Oceania, involving up to 13 artists from 8 Indo-Pacific island nations, BaoBao is one of Taiwan’s most prominent producers of cross-cultural arts projects and an ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts) fellow 2023-25. A vivid storyteller and fluent in English and Mandarin, she has a social media following of 130K+, and has been invited to speak at TEDx, APAP NYC, Stanford Live, and numerous arts festivals. Growing up on an organic farm and Jane Goodall’s ‘Roots and Shoots’ program have gifted BaoBao a deep respect for nature, It was her skills in arts management and her love for nature that founded Small Island Big Song.

Tim Cole (Co-founder & Artistic Director)

Cole is an Australian music producer and filmmaker who’s passionate about cross-cultural arts projects. He has produced numerous albums, films and concerts for Australian aboriginal, Torres Strait islander and Pacifica artists including Archie Roach, Telek, and Shellie Morris. He has also toured internationally with Circus Oz for 8 years as theater and sound designer with seasons on Broadway NYC & West End London. He was a senior music producer at CAAMA – Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association before beginning Small Island Big Song. Cole has received a Churchill fellowship and invitations to speak at the United Nations HQ, APAP NYC, and WOMEX.

Putad – Amis heritage, Taiwan (Songwriter & Performer)
Powerful, entrancing, unapologetic all words used to describe Putad’s engaging stage presence. In the proud spirit of her indigenous Amis heritage, Putad unites ancient vocal traditions with raw energy of grunge, rock and punk, as her and her brothers Wusang and Linken’s band Outlet Drift express. In the Small Island Big Song (SIBS) ensemble, she brings this energy, her soaring voice, rock bass along with her coastal Amis ancestry and love for the ocean! SIBS met Putad through an online music project in 2020. She has since become one of the feature artists on the album ‘Our Island’ and its tours across four continents.

Sauljaljui – Paiwan heritage, Taiwan (Songwriter & Performer)

In 2009, a typhoon devastated Sauljaljui’s village and community, her response was to write “Lament of Colored Cloth” a song which enabled the village to unite their tragedy and recover, winning a prestigious songwriters award in Taiwan. Two albums and countless concerts later, Sauljaljui is just as dedicated to her Paiwan community. SIBS met Sauljaljui at a music festival in Taiwan in 2016. She later became featured on both of their albums, documentaries and concerts around the world.

Emlyn – Creole heritage, Mauritius (Songwriter & Performer)

Featured on CNN, Emlyn is leading a wave of performers across the Indian Ocean proudly reclaiming their unique rhythms and cultural mix. Written with a reactive pen and sung in Mauritian Creole, her songs express her concerns for her island’s environment. Emlyn brings the infectious grooves of Sega with the sounds of her traditional frame drum, Ravann, which originated from the rhythms of African/Madagascan people during the slave trade. SIBS didn’t meet Emlyn physically until Jan’ 2022 (we all know why!), two years after they started working together, and has toured with her across four continents since.

Olivia Foa’i – Tokelau & Aotearoa, New Zealand (Songwriter & Performer)

Olivia Foa’i is a singer-songwriter, musician, director and dancer. Being the daughter of Opetaia Foa’i, the founder of internationally acclaimed Polynesian band – Te Vaka. She’s performed across 40 countries with the band and is featured on Disney’s Moana soundtrack. In 2019 she released her debut solo album Candid and won “Best Pacific Album” in the Aotearoa Music Awards and “Best Female Artist” in the Pacific Music Awards 2020. Tim and BaoBao worked with Olivia at a concert at Sydney Opera House back in 2013, and she’s finally joining SIBS ensemble in 2023.

Sammy – Merina heritage, Madagascar (Songwriter & Performer)

Sammy followed his passion for Madagascar’s musical heritage by mastering and learning how to make most of Madagascar’s instruments. His efforts came to the notice of the UK’s world music scene as his band Tarika Sammy gained international recognition, becoming a regular on major festival stages and being acknowledged as one of the world’s “Best Ten Bands”, alongside U2, by TIME Magazine. SIBS met Sammy at his house during their inspiring field trips to Madagascar in 2016 & 2017. He’s featured in both albums and concert tours around the world since 2018.

Yoyo Tuki – Rapa Nui, Easter Island (Songwriter & Performer)

Rapa Nui is the world’s most remote inhabited island, a distance reflected in the world’s understanding of its ancient culture. Yoyo confronts imposed narratives as he stands strong in his Rapa Nui ancestry steadied through a deep respect for his land and traditions as nurtured by his grandfather ‘Mana Roa’ (Great Wisdom). A mana (Substance of presence) ringing out through his singing, music, art and performance, lifting us above our prejudices. Pioneering fusions of reggae, folk and funk with his Rapa Nui lineage and mastery of Polynesian music styles. SIBS met Yoyo at a music conference in Australia in 2015, and he soon became the first artist on the project. He’s featured in both albums and concert tours around the world.

Richard Mogu – Magi heritage, Papua New Guinea (Songwriter & Performer)

From the south coast of Papua New Guinea, Richard has been a feature musician in PNG for many years as a musician and producer in both traditional and contemporary styles. ​He’s a master of traditional instruments including the Kwakumba flute, Garamut drumming, and PNG’s iconic Kundu drums. Tim and Richard have been long-time collaborators; they met up again during SIBS’s field trip to Papua New Guinea in 2016. He’s featured in both SIBS’s albums and concert world tours.