Telek is a band, a man and, in some parts of the world, a legend.
George Mamua Telek, or Telek as he is known to his legion of fans in Papua New Guinea, has long been at the forefront of the PNG music scene.
Telek comes from the village of Raluana, near Rabaul in the Papua New Guinean island province of East New Britain, where he continues to live with his wife Bridget and their seven children, despite the volcano which destroyed the idyllic Pacific town in 1994. “The traditional songs are about our daily life, songs that the people sing when they pick the bananas or collect the coconuts or go fishing,” he says. The towns and villages have now been rebuilt and because the Tolai people represent a living tradition, the volcano too has now entered their songs.
Telek's songs and his haunting voice, traverse many musical styles perfectly capturing the spirit of the proud cultural heritage of the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea. Songs of the “midal” (magic charms) and “malira” (love magic) draw on Tolai culture blending contemporary grooves with Melanesian rhythms, enriched with textured environmental sounds. Rich and unique three-part harmonies are sung both in the Tolai language of Kuanuan and in a creole called Tok Pigin. Telek also delves into Stringband Music: a rich blend of guitars and ukeleles sitting beneath interwoven vocal lines and harmonies in a unique gospel/country folk style that is typical throughout the whole of the Pacific.Telek and his musical peers in the Rabaul music scene also immersed themselves in a steady diet of Bob Marley,Chuck Berry,the Stones and the Beatles and the NDW lads introduced George to the atmospheric grooves of Massive Attack and Talking Heads and you can hear elements of all of these artists in Telek's writing
But back to the historyTelek began singing in the late seventies with various stringbands including The Moab Stringband and The Jolly Roger Stringband, before joining rock band, The Kagan Devils. After a brief spell in the PNG capital of Port Moresby, Telek returned to Rabaul to join The Unbelievers Revival Band where he began writing his own songs including “Talaigu”, which remains a highlight of his live set. But the breakthrough was to come with the rock group Painim Wok (it means “looking for work”).Painim Wok was PNG's biggest rock band in the 80's and sold all over the Pacific.Featuring the wild guitar of their leather clad guitarist John Warbat and Telek on lead vocals,Painim Wok at one stage they had three songs in PNG's top ten at the same time.They released eight albums in the 80's .All of these records were top sellers.