Music-making in the mountains of Ainaro district, February 2013

Thursday 31/01/13

Many Hands was delighted recently to host talented young Australian musician Lina Andonovska.  As a flautist of considerable renown, Lina has travelled the world, performing in world-class venues including the Barbican in London, the National Performing Arts Centre in Beijing and the Sydney Opera House. In February her work took a different tack, when she led music programs with rural schools and communities in the mountainous region of Ainaro. Lina believes that music can cross borders of language and life experience.  She hoped that presenting music from her classical and contemporary repertoire and sharing Timorese traditional music would encourage her Timorese collaborators to value and maintain their own rich musical traditions. At the same time, she was pleased to offer many children the chance to see a classical flute being played for the first time.

Lina led workshops in seven different schools and community groups. Each school was presented with traditional instruments created locally in our project to encourage interest and activity in traditional Timorese culture. We also helped author Ros Dunlop distribute her beautiful book about traditional music, Sounds of the Soul, by giving these groups a copy.   Lina's project culminated in two performances. The first was a ‘Friendship Concert’  in Ainaro town centre, where she shared the stage with Timorese artist Marqy da Costa and local performing group Nafo Fila who had rehearsed a new repertoire of songs and a drama piece about traditional harvest ceremonies for the occasion.   Despite pouring monsoonal rain and interruptions from a passing funeral procession, the event was a great success. On Lina's last night in Timor she found herself the special guest performer at a soiree hosted by Abe Barreto Soares, one of Timor's most eminent poets. Sr. Simao Barreto, renowned composer and music lecturer, congratulated Lina on her beautiful playing by describing her as much as a 'magician' as a 'musician'.  And to Many Hands, for hosting Lina to share her skills with regional communities,  Sr. Simao was also grateful, saying, "Your work is glorious.  ......Everything you are doing is marvellous, important and useful for my country".

Lina's visit was part of the final stages of a larger project promoting traditional culture through a mentoring project in instrument-making, sponsored by US AID; Friends of Ainaro: Ballarat, Blue Mountains and Madison USA, Deakin University and Many Hands International.  Friends of Ainaro Ballarat volunteer Kate Owen is to be thanked for her very ongoing support for this project.  Her local networks and significant negotiating skills make all the difference. Local partners Haburas Timor, and Director Elizario Bianco, ar to be thanked for their work undertaking the bulk of the direct project delivery.

Mountains and Music: read on for Lina Andonovska's account of her experience travelling to the remote village of Mau Nuno.

"On Friday 25th January, Kim Dunphy, Kate Owen and myself departed the town of Ainaro in the south of Timor-Leste for the remote village of Mau Nuno. Initially thinking the journey would take place on foot to reach the village, we were pleasantly surprised when a lift was offered by a local worker to take us the majority of the way. With us came Nildo, a young Ainaro man, who would be our help with translating during the day’s activities. We were dropped off at the point that the 4WD could go no further; the rest of the way was only accessible by foot. The first challenge that we came across was the river crossing. Locals to the area would cross this several times a day but to us malae (foreigners) it was not something that we would regularly do. We successfully crossed the rapids of knee-deep water and continued the 2km up-hill trek to reach the village.

Firstly we encountered young children playing with a chicken, and were greeted with "Bondia malae!" (Good morning foreigners!) at which we responded "Bondia alin! Di'ak a lae?" (Good morning young people! How are you?).  We continued on our way to the village school after stopping to pay our respects to the victims of the Indonesian massacre at the small memorial cemetery, and met with Illasario, a worker with local NGO Haburas Timor. As we arrived at the entrance of the school grounds, we could hear the sound of children in the distance preparing for our arrival. We were greeted with a traditional welcoming ceremony, a segala that was performed by the children of Mau Nano school who had chosen to undertake a program facilitated by Many Hands International to learn about and practice traditional culture. There were eight girls playing the traditional drum or babadok, four younger girls dancing in formation, two girls playing the dadir (gong) and three boys performing the segala, a spoken chant.

We were then invited inside one of the three small classrooms (that see 500 children pass through daily) where a formal welcome was made. We were presented with tais (hand spun cloth made on traditional looms) and formal speeches were made. Afterwards, we sat on the verandah to watch another two traditional performances- a repeat of the segala ceremony and a song with dance. It was my turn for a performance following this; I improvised followed by performing a riff of a piece that is part of my repertoire, Zoomtube. For this, I asked the audience to clap along to the riff. I then performed a folk tune that I had learnt many years ago at a folk festival. The audiences loved this, and were inspired to join in and dance along. Kim, Director of Many Hands International then led a workshop that shared the tradition of bush dancing, and together with the girls playing the babadoks and myself on the flute, we provided the musical accompaniment. A real collision of cultures; a unique exchange was taking place organically!

After this, we discussed with the teachers how it was to be a musician in Australia, and the kind of training that I had to go through. I then played an accompaniment to a song performedby a young girl, followed by writing a short rap song that was translated to Tetun about our trip to the school in Mau Nuno. After lunch, the older students had arranged a  generator to be brought to the school to power a a sound system. The students got us up to dance, and we danced for an hour until our legs were sore.  At 5pm, we made our way back through the village, followed by a crowd of young children to send us off down the hill, across the river and to the car to begin the journey back to Ainaro."

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