Jan 162009

I went up to Timor in November, primarily to get the music students at the music school hooked up to Skype and comfortable working with the medium of internet music lessons, a mean feat it turned out, downloading anything in Timor on internet takes hours sometimes, skype was no exception. It was frustrating for me as the computers I was working with were PCs and I use apple, and so with all the gliches along the way I was a rank beginner trying to figure out how to get it all working. Luckily there is a terrific internet café in Dili with a man there “Mister Sugar!” I kid you not! Who always managed to put me back on course. Then I had to teach the students. They were quick to learn and grasp the concept of staring and talking to a small screen. On the other end we had my daughter (a violinist) who also had never used skype teaching. Our first student in this process is a lovely bright and eager Timorese girl Milka, and she and Ella from the first five minutes behaved as if they had worked in this medium all their lives. Milka has been having regular lessons ever since, not too many breakdowns. Antonio (Toto) Padua is going to commence piano and theory lessons using the same system. We had to get him a lightweight keyboard he could take to internet cafes (1 – net in Dili has been most accommodating to us!) So when the container gets to Dili in February he shall start lessons too. We are adding students all the time to this program. We are adding vocal lessons in February with a vocal teacher who has offered to teach students in Dili using this method. Of course they will be backed up with face to face lessons as well. But it is a great method for long distance learning, even as precarious as it is to make work in a country like East Timor where the internet can be frustratingly slow.
web-lessons.JPG Milka having her first web lesson! click to enlarge
I also went to the opening of the exhibition “Husi bei ala Timor Sira Nia Liman ~ from the hands of our ancestors”, at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin, on my way up to Timor. They are to be commended for a fine exhibition, well worth a visit if you get a chance to get to Darwin between November and July this year.

I continued on my merry quest to obtain music from districts I still don’t have recordings ( or very little) – principally Liquica and Aileu. We now have a good selection of music from 11 of the 13 districts after 6 years of recording. I had with me the sound editor from the feature film being made about the Balibo Five “Balibo”, Sam Petty, who was up there to do recordings. He was to have a driver Nelson – whom I know well from the music group “Rai Nain” – he is their drummer. We arrived in Dili a week before Independence day celebrations on the 28th November, there groups of young people marching all over the town in spite of the horrific heat, the best group would win a prize on Independence day, so we negotiated our way with difficulty to Hotel Turismo where Sam was staying.

That night we went to a concert of the St Cecilia Choir, in celebration of St Cecilia – t’was St Cecilia day, which Sam recorded, it was a long concert and the hall seemed to have no air at all, it was like being in a sauna, yet the singing was lovely and the show went on. At the end there was a spectacular looking cake and some very warm champagne which was popped, I thought it best to avoid! There was a magnificent feast of traditional Timorese food, Sam loved his introduction to Timor!
Sam Petty, Sr Manalu, Nelson Sam Petty, Sr Manalu, Nelson : click to enlarge
The next day we went up to Dare to visit Sr Manalu Lordes, a vivacious nun who has done so much to help her people and is much loved and admired in East Timor, her reputation outside Timor for her work and commitment to the Timorese people goes far. She is like the Scarlet Pimpernel – never at home (she has many orphanages and a TB clinic she runs) so I had no expectations she would be there this time, but, to our delight she was! We spent all day with her, recording songs she and her young people sang, listening to her stories, she has some 300 resistance songs she wrote during Indonesian occupation, and has offered to record these for me some time. Every time she would get outraged with scenes she had witnessed or the latest crime to ripple through Timor, she would write a song!

Sr Manalu Lordes and Ros Sister Manalu & Ros : click to enlarge
I was giving long lessons on piano to Antonio in between recording trips, and helping those students of singing – at least a clarinet player (me) can help with the breathing part of it all. There is one beautiful tenor voice Jacob who I later discovered only had one working lung. I also managed to see the Minister of Education and the President to give them copies of the proposal for the Music School, they are keen to see what develops, so we are hopeful of support from them. The Internally Displaced People are gradually being moved out of the Motael Church compound, so with luck the facilities for the Music school location which we are hoping will be the location for the music school, might be available this year. Meanwhile the music school is itinerant working from the two rooms behind the Motael Church, to the internet café and Balides Church!

As always there are the negotiations for arranging for traditional music recordings. This trip I was determined to get more from Balibo and Liquica. Sam needed to go to Balibo, so we stayed with my friend Mong (from Arte Moris art school), at his family home in Balibo. On the way we stopped near Liquica to do some recording organised through a lively Timorese woman Mana Kassian who is the driving force behind a community house which provides support for women and child minding.
Girls with babadoks 28th Nov children who danced Tebe Dai in Balibo
In Balibo we recorded children dancing Tebe Dai from the local school, and stayed the next morning for the Independence Celebrations in the morning. We drove back to Dili to the Independence Celebrations in front of the Parliament, whoever was the organiser of the display choreographed it very well! The rest of the week was devoted to giving lessons and making sure the skype was working and that the students could do it on their own. Success, the day after I returned to Sydney, Milka and Antonio called and had their first lesson, unassisted by anyone to make it happen!

Timorese in traditional dress for Nov 28th Timorese girls in traditional dress going to Independence day celebrations: click to enlarge