Although now based out of New York, it is an entirely different place that influences Rosa Bordallo’s debut album, Reef Walker. Rosa is of CHamoru heritage, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands in Micronesia, and until the age of nineteen she lived in Guam, some 8000 miles from New York. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, one of the key themes on Reef Walker is one of distance, about being both physically and culturally removed from your home and your family, and about finding solace in activism and community. Following Reef Walker’s release back in October, today we’re sharing the video to the latest track lifted from the record, I Am Pupa.
In the case of I Am Pupa, that distance is particularly poignant. Rosa has described the track as, “a sort of survivor’s anthem”, and a tribute to her sister, “someone who has personally helped me survive”. Rosa’s sister, still lives in Guam, “we’re both experiencing life in different parts of the world, but she’s a kindred spirit who helps me bridge that divide between my adopted home and my ancestral home”.
Musically, I Am Pupa is a fascinating wash of ideas, at the forefront throughout it a scuzzy guitar line, reminiscent of early Interpol, which strikes a bold contrast to Rosa’s vocal-line. Clipped and laid relatively quiet in the mix, Rosa’s voice draws the listener in, like a beacon through dense fog, a siren song that draws you towards the rocks. There’s a touch of Mercury Rev in the almost gothic imagery of Rosa’s words, “when the spider-ling eat their mum, do they think my, how far we have come”? When you are young life’s so bloody you could taste it and this girl fought hard for what was left of hers”. There’s a disorienting quality, never entirely clear whether it’s Rosa’s own story or a character, the lines blurring between the two, fiction and fact lost to the listener’s own interpretation.
Check out the track below, and read on for Rosa’s thoughts on the track and the excellent video that accompanies it.
This video was made by my older sister, a dance & media artist who goes by the name, lethe.b. She was a big influence on me growing up. She’s also the woman pictured on the album cover. Dancing has always been a really important part of her life. She started formal training as a child and as an adult explored choreography as a creative and artistic outlet. When I was little I was sort of her shadow, and I always wanted to tag along with whatever she was doing. As a result I learned a lot about the creative process from her.
She recorded this dance improvisation recently, and as soon as I saw it, I thought it would be perfect for my song, “I Am Pupa.” When I told her my idea, she said this is actually her favorite song out of the album. Her movements ended up lining up so well with the music that we didn’t make any edits.
I wrote this song as a sort of survivors’ anthem. I’ve known so many survivors in my life, but my sister is someone who has personally helped me survive. We’ve lived far from each other for most of our adult lives but we still maintain a close connection. I‘ve also been told she’s my doppelgänger. In fact when she moved back to Guam ten years ago, strangers would come up to say hi to her, and it wasn’t until much later that she realized they were my old classmates confusing her with me. This is one of the reasons I chose to put her image on the album cover for Reef Walker. We’re both experiencing life in different parts of the world, but she’s a kindred spirit who helps me bridge that divide between my adopted home and my ancestral home.
Reef Walker is out now via Time Castle. Click HERE for more information on Rosa Bordallo