AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND-BASED ARTIST VALLÉ RECONNECTS TO HIS PNG ROOTS ON DEBUT EP
Leaving PNG as an infant to receive treatment for malaria, Vallé moved to live with his father and sister in Aotearoa New Zealand. Raised in Christchurch and Wellington, his home was always soundtracked by his dad’s favourite acts like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. Later handed down the R&B influence from his sister, his discovery of rap occurred in his pre-teens when he was gifted Eminem’s Encore CD.
“I remember being fully immersed in the artwork and you know when you buy physical CD’s and you could go through the pamphlet and it just brings to life the music. It captured me, it felt like a very hand in glove moment.”Vallé on AUD’$.
Above all else, Vallé is a powerful storyteller – evident as early as his 2018 debut release ‘Love Me’. The Christchurch-based artist delves into his identity struggles and rocky parental relationships with an underlying message of hope emanating from the chorus. The vulnerable record now comes full circle with Vallé having since learnt more about his PNG background and becoming a father himself.
He returned to his birthplace of Port Morseby a year later, documenting the journey in the music video for one of the EP’s lead singles ‘Trip Advisor’. The track possesses a soulful and summery feel that draws close similarities to Chance The Rapper’s ‘Angels’. Incorporating the creole language Tok Pisin in his verses and bringing light to life in the settlements with the song’s visuals directed by Jadon Avosa Calvert, ‘Trip Advisor’ celebrates Vallé’s reconnection to PNG.
“It was surreal, it was nostalgic, it kind of felt like I was coming back from the dead and that was the reception I got from my family because it had been so long and there had been no communication.
It felt like it opened up the opportunity for me to create redemption and encourage people to do the same.”Vallé on AUD’$.
Written and recorded over the past three years, Vallé’s debut EP Caged Birds is dedicated to PNG and explores his experiences as part of the diaspora. Continuing the thematic relationship between Vallé and his culture, the cover art depicts him opening a bird cage as a Kumul, the bird-of-paradise and the country’s national animal, is freed. It’s emblematic of the metaphorical cages that have prevented him and other melanesians from flourishing – from systemic, generational and circumstantial cages, to others self-inflicted.
Caged Birds features a handful of Aotearoa’s rising talent in its 7-track runtime. Aidan Fine provides his vocals on the introspective introduction of ‘Death By Duty’, Sam V and US artist John Givez deliver a dynamic and electric performance on ‘Prodigy’, and Otara based collective STNDRD help Vallé close out the EP with ‘675’, a reference to PNG’s calling code.
Influences of J.Cole and JID shine through, particularly on the solo tracks like ‘Swing Low’ and ‘Guap’, with head-bobbing bars bouncing over the jazzy instrumentation. Across the six tracks and ‘Winston’s Interlude’, the production credits include Struan Finlay, Edward Liu, Jono Boyle, Dan Martin, Antonio Toetoe and Smoke from SWIDT.
“I’ve always just tried to work with people I love and people that inspire me. More importantly, the music is great and if it prompts me to write and respond a certain way. It’s a dance, the music is holding your hands and it’s taking steps and you’re taking steps with it and I’m not really thinking about if this is on brand.”Vallé on AUD’$.
Vallé will be performing across NZ to close out this year, with live shows confirmed for Christchurch, Queenstown, Auckland, Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui and Wellington Jazz Fest. On the horizon for 2023, he’s also planning to tour Australia and PNG.
Check out the interview between Matthew Craig and VALLE below as he speaks about his debut EP, revisiting PNG and more on AUD’$.