Buena Aitutaki Social Club

The Cook Islands were wet. We had rain on most days, but only one whole day and a couple of afternoons were completely washed out. We sunbathed during the bright bits and snorkelled in the rain. The latter (the swimming, not the rain), at the tiny atoll of Aitutaki, was outstanding – giant clams, big fish, clear water. There was music too – a fabulous little acoustic band called The Sunrays.

The Sunrays in full flow…

They were playing to accompany our dinner at the resort, and ran through what I took to be loads of Cook Islands favourites. Lovely soft acoustic ukulele and guitar, no drums, and sweet, very laid back singing. The big guy on the left plays a uke about as big as his forearm, while the old guy on the right immediately reminded me of those Cuban maestros from the Buena Vista Social Club.

The big guy on the left…

We’d had bands playing through dinner at our Rarotongan hotel – much the same sort of repertoire, but with amplified ukes and drum machines spewing out cod Pacific/Latin rhythms. With a limited repertoire of arrangements, and restricted dynamic range, those bands swiftly became a mildly diverting background noise – and by the end of the evening something of an irritant.

The Sunrays are in a different league. Their obvious love of singing, and the infectious nature of their playing compensated for any sameness in the arrangements. The only songs I recognised were My Bonny (rather more laid back than Tony Sheridan and The Silver Beatles’ version) and a beautiful Teddy Bear, without any Elvis overtones. Some might say that the wine, after a rather wonderful day peering into giant clams, was affecting my judgement, but I prefer to believe that The Sunrays are one of the Pacific’s great undiscovered secrets. I commend them and their island to you all.

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