Now at last, the return of the legendary Telek

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude 18 October 2022

In Kambek, Telek applies his hauntingly beautiful voice to traverse many musical styles and capture the spirit of the Tolai people. The album blends contemporary with Melanesian rhythms: the music enriched with island harmonies and textured environmental sounds


MATTHEW FORD | Wantok Music

MELBOURNE – George Mamua Telek, or Telek as he is known to his legion of fans throughout the world, has long been at the forefront of Papua New Guinea’s modern music.

His latest album, Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai), ‘Comeback’ in Tok Pisin and Kuanua, is well chosen, and references not only a new production (the first recorded in Rabaul since 1994) but Telek’s recent recovery from a long fought battle with mouth cancer.

Whilst in the Gold Coast to perform at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Telek was diagnosed with the very aggressive cancer which required immediate surgery followed by radiation therapy and a long recovery period.

By any criterion of fame, Telek’s career extending for more than 40 years, has been vibrant and ascendant.

It includes an MBE for services to the development of music culture and industry in PNG, international releases of his albums, an Australian ARIA award for the best world music album, and high praise from the bibles of the music and entertainment industry, Rolling Stone and Billboard.

“Telek’s voice alone mesmerises and seduces,” wrote Billboard, the US rock music colossus. “This provocative singer with the ’magic’ for writing songs has produced one of the most remarkable pairings of world music made this year”.

While the UK Sunday Times extolled “Telek’s voice on its own is a thing of rare beauty”.

Through his original work with the Tolai village-based Moab Stringband, the legendary 1980’s rock band Painim Wok, his many collaborations with eminent Australian musicians Kev Carmody, David Bridie and the late Archie Roach, as well as his solo output, Telek has long been one of the most important performers in the Pacific region.

Kambek (I Lilikun Mulai) is the first album Telek has recorded in his home base of Rabaul since Tavurvur volcano destroyed the town (including the recording studios) in 1994.

For this comeback album Telek teamed up with his former bandmates from Painim Wok – legendary guitarist John Warbat, drummer Henry Maniot and bass player John ‘Pooger’ Yass.

The album was mixed by Simon Polinksi, who recorded and mixed Telek’s award-winning self-titled album in 1997 and also worked with Yothu Yindi and Paul Kelly.

In Kambek, Telek again applies his hauntingly beautiful voice to traverse many musical styles and capture the spirit of the Tolai people.

The album, which was released four days ago, blends contemporary with Melanesian rhythms: the music enriched with island harmonies and textured environmental sounds.

The album revolves around Telek’s unique vocal sound and style and is complete with lush Melanesian harmonies and instrumentation that provide a joyous underlay.

Included in the 11 original tracks are:

A great example of how Telek believes in the power of song in the album opener, Noken Paitim Meri (No Violence Against Women). This is a potent ballad in which Telek states directly to 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 (Garden Food), Telek joins up with the Moab Stringband to extol the virtues of a village garden diet.

Giraun Em I Laif (Land is Life) is a contemporary island reggae tune underscoring the message about the importance of customary land.

Ramkuk is a traditional Gunantuna song performed in stringband style about the power a magical spirit bird has over people.

Lus Lo Solwara (Lost at Sea) is dedicated to the families and friends of the East New Britain officials who went missing in the Wide Bay Pomio area and have never been found.


Telek and Painim Wok rocking it in the early years at Queen’s Park, Rabaul

All songs written by George Telek:

  1. Noken Paitim Meri
  2. Best Talaigu
  3. Among Nata
  4. Ramkuk
  5. Giraun Em I Laif
  6. Avutung
  7. Gunan Na Niuvia
  8. Sik Kensa
  9. Gadin Kaikai
  10. Lus Lo Solwara
  11. Alili

Lead singer: George Telek MBE. Guitars: John Warbat MBE, Lloyde Coplen, Phil Wales. Drums: Henry Maniot, John Hakalitz. Bass: John ‘Pooger’ Yass, Paul Cartwright. Keyboards: McLaren Vengiau, David Bridie. Pikinini bilong Mac i singsing long Gunan na Niuvia (Mac’s children sing on Gunan na Niuvia)

Featuring the Moab Stringband from Raluana on Gadin Kaikai – Kaul Wartir, Wargi Apelis, Waina Henry Pindiat, Amos Boas

Recorded at Black Label Studio, Takubar, Kokopo. Melbourne recordings engineered by Andrew Robinson at ToRurua Studios, Thornbury. Engineered by Noel Vengiau and Nathan Coplen.

Additional Telek vocals recorded at Krazy Sound Studio, Kokopo

Album produced by McLaren Vengiau and David Bridie with George Telek.

Mixed and mastered by Simon Polinski at Laundry Goat Studios

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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