Work plans in Lospalos

Monday, day 29

The little I’ve heard about the local music traditions has made me even more determined to learn what I can of the songs, instruments and traditions. The other night on local TV (I was in a restaurant and saw it there) there was a televised concert of traditional music and dance groups from all the different Timorese districts. One of the groups from this district played a very interesting suspended log drum. The playing of it was vigorous, and almost like a dance. The instrument seemed to provoke lots of commentary on the TV program, as the host went over to it and examined for the camera after the performance, and the camera kept returning to shots of it during later discussions and commentary. I’d love to find out more about it, and learn to play it.

Also there are many, many traditional songs. Some of these are work songs. Deb sang one to me the other day, a chant that is sung while people are removing the kernels from the corn. The work songs and chants might be sung throughout the work, and give the people energy to continue. Fataluku language seems very percussive – at least from the few words I’ve learned. For example, the word for ‘head’ in Tetun is ‘ulun’, but in Fataluku it is ‘chautapun’ (I’m writing phonetically). ‘Shoulders’ is another cool word – ‘chichika’. These words came up because I was translating ‘Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes’ into Tetun and then Fataluku. The Fataluku version will probably need a completely new melody as each of the words has so many syllables.

Here are my two favourite Fataluku words so far:

Aniamichanana = sole (of the foot)

Tanamichanana = palm (of the hand)

And here is “heads, Shoulders, knees and toes’ in Fataluku:

Chautapun, chichika

Ania-imire, lafukar

Ina narun, valikassar

O, miini.

In the town centre there is an old gymnasium – the Evergreen Gymnasium. The building is from Portuguese times. It doesn’t have any doors or windows, so essentially just a shell of a building. But it has walls and a floor and a stage, a balcony reached by a spiral stairway, and a foyer, and extra room off to the side. As a performance space it has heaps of potential. I’ve started to think about it as a site of an installation performance, where the audience could gather in the middle, and the performers appear in different parts of the space, gradually moving closer to the audience. Singing? The acoustic would be great for voices. However, that means that any noise from the audience would be similarly amplified.

As we drove out to Tutuala and Jaco Island yesterday, we drove through a number of small villages and one of these had a community centre. It caught our attention because it had a large painting on its side of a crocodile smiling and sitting on the beach in front of a sea and an island, which seemed a little ominous for us, on our way to the beach and the island. But I digress… I asked if many of the villages had community centres like this, and apparently many have them. The process for visiting and doing a workshop or project with the local children is not necessarily an easy thing to arrange – you certainly can’t just show up! Lots of consultation is required with the chief of the village and other senior people.

Seeing the community centre, I started thinking that an interesting thing to do would be to take a workshop project to different villages during the children’s school holidays in December. We could make instruments and play some music, taking ideas from the Ping! website. But the process for setting up these relationships is not a quick one – it requires great patience and plenty of time. Apparently foreigners don’t always know to allow enough time for these conversations, and this can cause a lot of confusion about the project and frustration for local people. Following their conventions and processes is about respect, and being ready to listen.

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