Forever Young in Fataluku

Here is another video from my four months in East Timor. One of the enduring songs during my time in Lospalos was the pop song Forever Young. Initially I decided to translate the song in the local Fataluku language (with the help of local people of course) as a gift for the teenage girl who cooked all my meals for me, because she liked the song so much and wanted to know what the words meant. Later, the song took hold with the group of young people who used to gather on the veranda each afternoon for a jam session.

I created a simple accompaniment on the chime bars for the song, and a teenage boy volunteered to be our Chief Guitarist. We ended up performing our version of this song live on local radio one evening.

This video shows the progression towards that performance:

2 comments so far

  1. Julie on

    Hi Gill,

    There is so much to say about this clip, I really enjoyed watching. It is clear that you had to work very hard on your feet and adapt to what was available to you. Just wondering how you managed to arrange and practice the song? I get the feeling that the girls involved in the radio performance were key in the process, maybe I’m wrong as the men and boys in the earlier scenes are so engaged.

    More of these please!

    • musicwork on

      Nearly all my Timor projects were all boys. There are lots of cultural barriers to girls participating. The three teenage girls you see in that clip were girls who lived and worked in the house with me, and I asked them especially if they would be our singers for the recording.

      The arrangement – well, the chime bars were a C-C octave, with no sharps or flats, so we had to sing the song in C Major. I downloaded the Youth Group version to listen to, and initially had planned to make the chime bar open-5ths progression mimic the guitar riff that opens the Youth Group version of the song. But that was too complicated in the end.

      The thing that thrilled me about this project was how much of a motivator it was for all the kids. I only ever taught that chord progression to the children you see me show it to in the clip. The rest learned from each other. In the end, I’d say 70-80% of the group knew how to play it, and it was their desire to learn to play this familiar, popular music that also got them playing the chime bars with more care and discipline and attention to detail.

      I love listening to their voices sing along with me in that clip. That would have been one of the first times (if not the first time) that I presented to lyrics to a large group who hadn’t been part of the translation effort. The guitarist set off a a jaunty pace, and it was tricky to fit all those percussive Fataluku syllables in – I hear how gamely everyone joined in, and I sense how willing they were to be part of this project. There just aren’t that many pop songs that these people get to sing in their own language. There are hardly any in Tetun! At the end of my residency, quite a few people asked me for the big poster pages of the words. None of the copies got thrown out. I like to think that there are little clusters of people in Lospalos still getting together to sing songs, and including Forever Young in Fataluku in their repertoire.

      The radio gig was also interesting because it was the night after the burglary, and if you have read that long post, you’ll know what an extraordinary day that was. I had no idea who would turn up in the evening to go to the radio station with us (after years of curfew and after-dark violence, people don’t tend to leave their homes at night-time, so it was a big ask). So that particular performance was incredibly affirming, in all sorts of ways.

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