Saturday, December 1, 2012

A song about rice

Young Dyak women grind rice using a
 traditional technique
(after a photograph by Harrison W. Smith
 for National Geographic)
12" x 12", oil on luan, 2012
In 1951 and 1952 UNESCO and UNO recorded indigenous music of the various Dyak (or Dayak) people on the Island of Borneo (now Kalamantan) in Indonesia. A selection of these recordings can be found on The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, Collected and Edited by Alan Lomax, Vol. VII: Indonesia, Edited by Dr. Jaap Kunst, Indisch Museum, Amsterdam. A long title indeed, but inside the titles are short and descriptive. You can read more about the record when, a while back, I painted Roro natives from Papua New Guinea. The second song from the album is a pretty one labeled Rice Song. "Dyak women sing this appeal to the spirit of the mountains to send a good harvest." It could have been a lot worse; the song after the rice song is a headhunter's dance. The practice of cannibalism had been extinct in Borneo for a good while already. Volume five of the Columbia World Library series overlap volume seven a bit, it deals with Australia and New Guinea. The record features a recording of still practicing cannibals. Alan Lomax (who does the final edit on the liner notes in the series) states in a matter of fact manner: "(...T)he warriors burst into a song. Afterwards the bodies of the dead men are cut into pieces, cooked on hot stones, and eaten." I wonder if they serve rice with it.

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