Second workshop at the Convent
Lospalos, Tuesday, day 96
On Sunday afternoon we went back to the ADM convent to lead another workshop with the local children. This time, when I walked in the room, I was greeted with cheers from the 100 or so children assembled there (a big contrast to the shy, uncertain children I met the first time I went there).
It was a huge group, in a boomy room, with lots of teenage boys hanging around the windows calling things out, and rain pouring outside – so pretty noisy to start with! But we had 100% engagement for everything we did.
I started with a group song – Mobakomeenofway, because I knew lots of them would know it. After the first sing-through, I taught it line by line for those in the room who hadn’t been at the previous workshop, then we all sang it again.
We moved from this into some body percussion. I started with patsching (hands tapping thighs), then clicking fingers, then clapping hands, then on a signal from me, a unison jump up. I was moving them gradually towards creating a rainstorm.
Next we brought out the thunder-makers (or thunder-boxes, as I like to call them), and two children volunteered to play them. We performed our rainstorm again, this time with thunder accompaniment, and no spoken cues.
In this workshop, my aim was to offer a workshop that was a self-contained experience (ie. complete within itself, requiring no follow-on) and that somehow utilised some of the musical material that I’d learned over the last few weeks here in Lospalos. I wanted to recreate the story of the lake (told in this earlier post), illustrating some of the key moments in the story with music.
Therefore, our next task was to gather together in a huddle on the floor (all 100 of us) to listen to the story. I told it in English and Mana Holly translated it. Then I explained that we were going to retell the story with music, in the following sections:
- The village, where people are busy husking corn (music: cele cuku rhythms on the kakalos, chanting by the other children)
- The arrival of the 7-headed snake (music: oboe solo, with atmospheric accompaniment from the flute and viola)
- The chopping off of the snake’s heads (music: 7 strikes from the whole ensemble, after which the oboe stops abruptly)
- The flooding of the village (music: body percussion rainstorm with thunder-boxes)
- The memory of the village, submerged under the lake (music: cele cuku rhythms incredibly quietly, accompanied by thunder-boxes)
We set up the music as we approached each section. The group was too big and too excited to be able to go over each section more than once, so we performed as we went. This video shows some footage from the workshop. No electricity during the day and a rainstorm outside means the visuals are quite dark – hopefully you get a sense of how it worked though.
This also meant we went through the workshop more swiftly than I’d have liked, but the restrictions of the space necessitated this. Anyway, it was a bit of an experiment for me, and I felt it went really well. With a smaller group, in a more controlled space, I’d love to bring even more music in that I have learned since I’ve been here – such as some of the music I’ve transcribed from the recordings I made at the Dili Cultural Festival.