Sounds of Polynesia, Melanesia and Australia, a sample-based virtual instrument from Zero-G, combines great sounds with a state-of-the-art sample engine to bring the sounds of the South Pacific to your computer.
Zero-G calls Sounds of Polynesia a virtual sound module. It’s a massive 1.4 gig library of sounds organized in a very flexible sampling interface.
The Intakt Engine
Zero-G has based this sample collection on Native Instruments’ Intakt sampler. Intakt is very powerful, giving you quick access to the huge array of sounds. It lets you work with samples in a traditional sampler fashion, beatslice them, and time-stretch them to match any tempo.
The installer is very easy to use, and installs the branded version of Intakt, along with the massive sound library.
Intakt is extremely flexible. It works on Windows and OS X, and supports VST 2.0, DXi, II, ASIO, DirectSound, RTAS, Audio Units and Core Audio. Intakt’s flexibility means that Sounds of Polynesia should work with just about any audio workstation configuration.
Once installed, the Intakt engine needs to be registered with Native Instruments. This is an easy process, as long as you are connected to the Internet. The process could be more cumbersome for those without Internet access. It seems unusual to have to register a Zero-G product with Native Instruments, rather than directly with Zero-G. Some may find the registration process intrusive, but these measures have become necessary to combat software piracy.
For those unfamiliar with Intakt, it is a robust sample engine that supports extensive manipulation of sounds. It gives you three ways to work with samples:
- Sampler Mode plays samples like a traditional sampler, linking pitch with time. If you pitch a sample higher or lower, it gets relatively shorter or longer.
- Time Machine mode treats samples like Acid loops. It lets you stretch or compress the loop’s length, independent of it’s pitch. This, combine with the sampler’s syncing capabilities, lets you play loops in sync with a host sequencer.
- Beat Machine mode lets you beat-slice percussive samples. Each slice of the sample can be assigned to a note on a keyboard, or to a pad on an external controller. This gives you flexible control over the sample, and lets you rearrange the sample slices to make new rhythmic patterns.
Fortunately, Zero-G has done the dirty work of preparing the samples with the most appropriate tools, so you can work with them immediately. Intakt’s power means that if you want to use Zero-G’s samples in ways they didn’t anticipate, you have all the tools that you need.
In addition to the sample manipulation tools, Intakt provides a powerful sound-shaping environment for further sonic mayhem. There is a powerful filter section, AHDSR envelopes, syncable LFO’s and delay, bitcrushing, and distortion. Intakt is very powerful, and makes working with samples a pleasure.
The Sound Library
The power of the Intakt engine would be useless, though, without great samples to work with. Zero-G delivers the goods with Sounds of Polynesia. The first thing you may notice about it is its size. At 1.4 gig, it’s huge, so it requires a DVD for installation.
The sample library covers tremendous ground, both in terms of the geographic diversity of the samples, and the wide sound palette. The samples were made with instruments from countries of the South Pacific. Most are from instruments from Papua New Guinea, one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
The samples are well-recorded, which must have been a challenge, given all the types of instruments used. The performances captured in the loops are full of character, and the construction kit loops are tastefully done. There is some variation in the “wetness” of the recordings. This is not objectionable, because it adds some realism to the sounds.
The samples include percussive rhythms, string and wind instruments, and vocals. The list of instruments used looks it could be part of a collection from a natural history museum. There are samples of Garamut, Pate, Pahu Mango, tin can, pan pipes, bamboo stomping tubes, water flutes, bowed harp, conch shells, wooden trumpets, coconut shells, and huge array of unusual instruments. Zero-G has also sampled some more familiar instruments, including guitar, drum kit, bass, and synths. These are used in loops of musical phrases, arrange in loop construction kit families.
For each instrument type, Zero-G has captured and prepared the samples in appropriate ways. For example, wind instruments can be played up and down the keyboard, while percussive loops are beat-sliced so that you can access individual slices by playing various keys on your keyboard. The construction-kits of looped phrases are mapped to notes on a keyboard, so you can experiment with arrangements by just holding down notes on your MIDI keyboard.
The quality of the samples is impressive. The scope is impressive, too; it’s like a musicological tour of the South Pacific. Many of the sounds are exotic and unique to this area of the world. On the other hand, some of the sounds, especially the percussive sounds, have a universal feel. This range means that the sound library is flexible – it could be used in many different types of music.
Sounds of Polynesia is big enough, and has enough variety, that it could be incorporated into almost any type of music. It is will be most useful, though, to musicians looking to inject some island flavor into their music.
Many of the samples are arranged construction-kit style. This should be ideal for users that need to work quickly, create a vibe and customize it to their purpose. The fact that the rhythmic loops are beat-sliced, though, means that you have these exotic instruments at your fingertips, and can create your own rhythms.
Here is a short demo that demonstrates the flexibility of Sounds of Polynesia. The track briefly explores multiple styles, including indigenous sounds, global-chillout, tribal dance rhythms, and house music. Most of the sounds are from Sounds of Polynesia, with the addition of some 808 and bass synth sounds.
Zero-G provides an Intakt Operation Manual, which is all that is needed to install and work with the software. It’s disappointing, though, that Zero-G doesn’t provide a short guide to the samples and instruments. Because of the unique nature of this sound module, it would be helpful to have a guide with a photo of each of the instruments, and some information about how and when they are used. Zero-G did provide some background information with their press release, which we’ve included below.
Sounds of Polynesia is large, powerful and inspirational. In our testing, we encountered no stability problems or problems with the sample editing. It’s amazing that Zero-G can provide a library of this depth and breadth at such a reasonable price. While not a bread and butter virtual instrument, it could easily be used in music ranging from soundtrack work to hip-hop.
Musicians that are interested in incorporating some island flavor into their music and in having a wealth of exotic instruments at their fingertips should check out Zero-G’s Sounds of Polynesia.
Features of NI Interface:
- Access to individual hits (slices) within loops,
- Easy and intuitive user interface,
- User interface is a version of Native Instruments’ INTAKT, based on KONTAKT, the world’s finest software sampling engine,
- Loops use one or more of the three sampler-modes: Beat Machine with ISE (Individual Slice Edit), Time Machine and standard Sampler mode,
- Easy synchronization of loops to MIDI tempo,
- MIDI file export permits groove, accent, and feel manipulation in any host sequencer,
- Integrated effects: Group filter including low-pass, high-pass, band-reject or band-pass modes, global filter, lo-fi, distortion, syncable delay,
- Modulation section provides AHDSR envelope, two individual syncable LFOs, envelope follower and a DBD pitch envelope,
- Total Recall
- Sound Library can also be loaded into other Native Instruments samplers including KONTAKT version 1.5 (which is now available as a downloadable upgrade from the Native Instruments web site), for even greater flexibility and more options for working with the material.
The Garamut is the “Tok Pisin” name given to slit drums found in PNG, they can be found in many different varieties and sizes. The garamuts used in this library come from Baluan Island in the Manus Province. Manus is a group of small islands found in the north of PNG with over 20 languages and many different styles of drumming and dance. Manus garamuts can range from 30 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter to over 2 meters long and 1.5 meter in diameter. These garamuts are carved out of one piece of timber usually from the Rain Tree using a curved chisel or a car suspension spring sharpened at one end. The Bass garamut are the largest log drums in PNG and are usually carved from the tree trunk of the Rain Tree. The deep sounds waves of the bass garamut can carry over a very long distance, many of them are used simply for their function as a form of distance communication.
Manus drumming usually consists of an ensemble of about 6 drummers. A lead garamut (small), about 4 rhythm garamut (medium size), and one bass garamut (largest). Manus drumming is usually structured in small rhythmic phrases often in 3 or 5 that are strung together to form a medley. There are no skin drums in Manus. Most traditional drumming in PNG unlike central and eastern Polynesian or the Kivai and Torres Strait region skin drums are not played with log drums. The producer/performer on this library, Airi Ingram, was taught Manus drumming by the Kilangit family from Baluan Island in Manus.
The Pate is the name for the Polynesian slit drum. It is originally from the Cook Islands in Central Polynesia; but now exists in most parts of Polynesia. In some parts of Polynesia such as Tahiti and Aitutaki the Pate is also known as the Tokere. The pate is a slit drum usually made from Albany or Mahogany. In the past after the drum had been carved they are soaked in the mud of the taro patch for a period of a few months or in diesel fuel for a period of a few weeks. This adds density and durability to the drum and gives more attack to the tone of the drum. The sticks are usually Iron wood or any other very hard wood. Cook Island drumming is probably the most sophisticated form of percussion in the South Pacific consisting of 4 or 5 rhythmic layers, each consisting of interlocking rhythmic phrases that make up a collective rhythm. The Pate is the main lead log drum and is usually about 1 meter long and 15 cm in diameter, a normal ensemble today consist of about 3 or 4 pate. A smaller high pitched slit drum (tokere or takirua) plays a rolling rhythm with syncopated accents.
The Pahu Mango is a drum similar to a conga; it has a sharkskin head and stands on the ground. Two to four pahu mango make up a set, played by one person in the ensemble. They are usually played with light drumsticks often made from hibiscus tree wood, and generally play a 16th or 32nd back beat and is funked up according to the player’s individual style.
The Pahu is a shark skin bass drum, in the Cook Island drumming ensemble it plays a part that is kind of like a marching band bass drum.
There are two main styles of Cook Island Drumming, the northern style and southern style. The northern style uses small high-pitched slit drums, playing simpler one-handed beats. The Southern style uses larger slit drums and uses a two-hand technique. Contemporary Cook Island drumming is generally in 4/4 and can be extremely fast and energetic with many syncopated breaks and fills. Polynesian percussion is actually one of the most adaptable and contemporary forms of music in the Pacific. At the beginning of the last century skin drums and log drums were never played together and the rhythms were much simpler than they are today. Generally the skin drums came from eastern Polynesia and the log drums came from western Polynesia. However over years of adaptation, migration and acculturation they eventually mixed in the centre, the Cook Islands. Skin drums like the Pahu and pahu mango originated from places such as Hawaii, Tahiti and Easter Island. The log drums that migrated easterly from Tonga and Fiji where they are called Lali. The oldest log drums in the Cook Islands the Ka’ara were found in Mangaia in the south where there still remains much archaeological evidence of the ancient spiritual beliefs of the Cook Islands. Archaeological evidence also point towards Tonga as the ancestral land for the first Cook Island log drums. When log drums were first used in the Cook Islands they had very strong ceremonial and ritual use. They had intricately carvings with a figure eight shaped slit and multi pitched. The older drums in the Cook Islands played much simpler and often triplet ? duplet rhythms, similar to rhythms still used in Fiji and Tonga. After years of development and the influence of missionaries, the log drumming that was once sacred lost its ritual function. But this didn’t mean the drumming died, in fact this opened the drumming up to possibilities such as entertainment, improvisation, creativity, acculturation and expression. Today it is the most sophisticated and virtuosic drumming in the Pacific. For the past few decades Cook Island drumming and dance has been a popular form of entertainment throughout the Pacific. So now these drums that once came to the Cook Islands from east and west have migrated back around the Pacific, and only recently have they begun to be heard around the world.
The producer/performer on this library, Airi Ingram, was taught about Cook Island Drumming by master drummers Ota Joseph, Tepoave Raita and Sonny Williams.
The Kundu is the “Tok Pisin” word for the hourglass shape drum found in most areas of PNG and the Torres Strait in north Australia. In Airi’s language Motu it is called Gaba. It has a goanna or snake skin, which is stretched over one end and stuck there using glue or sap from a tree. Bees wax is also used to tune the skins by sticking small dots of wax in the centre of the skin, this cuts out some of the high frequencies and brings out the deeper tones. There are many different styles of kundu, and each area of PNG has a very distinct style. They can range in size from 30 cm to over 2 meters long. The contemporary style of kundu actually stands up like a conga drum or pahu mango, which allows for a more two handed improvisatory style. The nature of most traditional kundu rhythms however is generally simple one handed beats, the rhythmic structures of the kundu is usually determined by the rhythm of the song it is accompanying or the steps of the dance movements. In my family’s area there are certain categories that kundu beats fit in to, which usually reflects the function of the dance they accompany. Eg. Kitoro – courtship dance (6/8 feel) Motu mavaru – motuan dance, Hiri Moale – celebratory dance with songs relating to the Hiri trade voyage celebration.
Airi’s grandfathers Boga Kwarara, Kokoa Kwarara and Kwarara Kwarara were his teachers of the Kundu and all the Motuan songs and dances from Gabagaba.
The Tin Can is often incorporated into South Pacific drumming and dance. In Central Province PNG it usually plays the same roll as a small garamut, played solo with a triplet – duplet feel to accompany dance. In the Cook Islands the cabin bread tin can is used as part of the ensemble and usually plays a similar roll as the Pahu mango or takirua (small pate). In Samoa it is often used to accompany the fire dance and in Tonga it also accompanies dance. In this CD it?s a bit of a mix of it all.
Bamboo Stomping Tubes are found in many areas of the Pacific but are most common in Bouganville, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. Basically they are just short lengths of Bamboo with the inner knots hollowed out (except for the bottom one). When they are stomped they resonate with the pitch of the Bamboo. The pitch depends on the length of the bamboo and the tone depends on the thickness and age of the bamboo.
Kwakumba is the name of the Bamboo flutes found in the Highlands of PNG. Traditionally only initiated men can play them. They are always played in pairs and are pitched slightly apart, the lower pitch – the masculine and the higher pitch – the feminine. Traditionally they play interlocking triplet rhythms that evoke sounds of the bush and village. Airi Ingram was taught Kwakumba by Tony Subam and Pius Wasi from East Sepik Province.
Pan Pipes come from many areas in the Pacific but are most common in the eastern New Guinea Islands and the Solomon Islands.
Water Flutes are made of two bits of bamboo and some water to create a pitch-sliding flute.
Voice Distorters are made out of 1m lengths of bamboo or cane with the ends split. By singing into one end the vibrations of the split bamboo give the distorted sound.
Split Cane is just split cane about 1 metre long bundled together.
The Bowed Harp is made by tying an electric guitar string or thin wire to two ends of a piece of cane to create a bow. You put one end of the cane on your lips and using your mouth as a resonator pluck the string.
Susap is a Bamboo Jews harp
Conch Shells – found almost everywhere near the ocean. The conch is used in the Pacific to send messages across long distances or as a form of fanfare before an important event or moment. The rhythm and pitch of the conch can send quite specific messages.
Wooden Trumpets are found in many regions of PNG but are most popular in the Sepik and Madang Provinces. They are basically a piece of wood (1m) hollowed at one end and a blowhole at the other.
Shakers – the gourd shakers are probably the same as most around the world. Gourds are dried out and then filled with rice, seeds or small stones to create different sounding shakers. Another shaker is the Kiwai shaker used in the Kiwai and Torres Strait regions for dancing. They are just a bunch of dried seed pods tied together to make a rattle; they can also be attached to Kundu drums, dancing sticks and poles or made into an anklet.
Coconut shells – two coconut shells are used clapping and rubbing them together.
Other instruments used in this sample library: Drum Kit, Bass guitar, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Keyboards, Rhodes piano, Electronic sythns, Sequencing and programming.
Supported Interfaces: – VST® 2.0, DXi, ASIO, Audio Units, Core Audio, RTAS, Mac & PC
Recommended Retail Price – $219.95 (US Dollars), 179 Euro, £129 pounds sterling
- Windows XP, Pentium III/ Athlon 400 MHz, 256 MB RAM
- Mac OS 10.2.6 or higher, G3 500 MHz, 256 MB RAM
- Windows XP, Pentium III/ Athlon 700 MHz, 512 MB
- Mac OS 10.2.6 or higher, G4 733, 512 MB