Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dayak lullaby

We spent our last night in the jungle sleeping on the floor of our guide's friend's house. The house had a large front room, and we slept in a little room off to the side. The only furniture in the front room was a piece of cloth hanging from the ceiling. It was for rocking the baby.

I was dead tired after a full day of hiking, and when I saw the baby being swayed gently in this soft tunnel of cloth, I wished I could climb in there too. Then the women of the house began singing lullabies. I took out my little video camera and persuaded them to sing for it.

I couldn't see a thing, and I was trying to figure out how the camera worked, so the video is kind of jumpy and random. But I like the cute kid who keeps trying to get into the picture. And most of all I love the woman's voice; it's got a toughness and grit that remind me of 1930s folk recordings by grannies in coal-mining towns in Appalachia.

The woman singing is not the one in the video, by the way; it's the older woman, who was sitting to her left.

I kept encouraging them both to sing more, but at the end you can hear her say "Cukup! (choo-koop): "Enough!"

Here's how they looked in daylight, as we were saying goodbye the next day:


The Elephant Rag said...

Hello Trish,
I love the lullaby and the image of the single bit of furniture.
I live in New Hampshire and heard you on the radio when you came home to visit.
I'm writing a story for the children's mag FACES about fishing boys of Sumatra who work offshore on jermals. Have you seen a jermal?
Can you tell me something about child fishermen or child labor in general in Indonesia?
Thank you. I am following your journey. Terry Farish

Nadya said...

That was so mesmerizing and addictive, really. I kept replaying the video trying to see if I can make sense of what she's singing or at least make out some words. Obviously I don't speak Dayak but I think I heard "menangis" (crying), "di gunung besar" (at the big mountain), "lihat lihat dekat ??? terbang" (look closely at the flying ???), "melihat di alam luas" (look at the vast nature). I guess when you live in deep borneo, everything does revolve around nature. Even your lullabies.

kopisusu2 said...

Thanks! I don't know anything about jermals. But I have met a ten-year-old boy in North Jakarta who fishes to support his family. His father was a fisherman but now has arthritis, so he can only pick up plastic bags and recycle them for money. The boy fishes all night and then goes to school in the morning.

Child labor is common all over Jakarta. You'll see kids selling stuff in traditional markets or on the street. Some eke out a living singing on buses or at traffic lights, and others simply beg. During the rainy season they work as "umbrella boys" (and girls), holding umbrellas over people's heads as they exit malls and office buildings and walk to their cars. They generally make 1,000 rupiah per trip. It's pretty heartbreaking, but it's a fact of life here.

Nadya, I find it rather mesmerizing too, and surprising that there is so much crossover with Bahasa Indo. And yes, their world was definitely heavily dependent on nature ... although there were also cellphones, cigarettes, and TVs (sometimes kept outside in a public shelter for the whole town to watch). Kalimantan is great; so far it's probably our favorite place to go in Indonesia.

mr_john said...