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Music for harmony, music for peace

Despite “customary” restrictions, Naga women have successfully paved their way in various fields ranging from politics to literature. In the field of music, we have the Tetseo Sisters, a quartet of four siblings (Alunë or Lulu, Kuvelü or Kuku, Mütsevelü or Mercy and Azi Tetseo) who, through their music and storytelling, celebrate the beauty of the hills and valleys of their native place. Belonging to the Chakhesang tribe and based out of Kohima, the band was formed in 1994 and they strive to preserve the tradition of "Li", which in the Chokri Naga language means "folk songs".

Code-switching

I was about four and a half years old when my family moved down from the dunes to the shores of Gaaway – the name for the Niger River from Gao to Niamey. The distance itself happened to be very short, but it marked a shift in my life. It was the moment I stopped speaking Tamashek (Tuareg language) and picked up Songhay. Thus I changed landscape, language and worldview. Years later I would be reminded that I used the words for the wild plants of the grazing plains for the riverside crops.

Tradition in Print

Naga identity has been, in a major way, shaped by orality and Naga history. Its culture and literature have been handed down via the spoken word over generations and is still revered as a custodian of its customs, beliefs and way of life. In the present times however, with orality fast disappearing, there is an urgent need to preserve those narratives in print so that the younger generations too have access to their roots, and that tradition can meet modernity in some manner.

Surinamese Children's Songs Are a Reminder of Slavery

Faya Siton, meaning hot stone, is an old song from Suriname that is sung during a specific children’s game. Children sit in a circle and pass on a stone – in reality often a pit – and rub it on the ground so that it turns hot. While cheerful the song is about Master Jan from Holland who brands people and kills children. The lyrics go “Faya siton, no bron miso, no bron miso. Agen masra Jantji e kir sma pikin”, which means “Hot stone, do not burn me so, do not burn me so. Master Jan has killed someone’s child again.”

Orality

Nagaland is home to nearly two million people consisting of 16 constituent major tribes that speak over 89 dialects (mostly mutually unintelligible between two tribes) and are without a common language and script.

According to the most famous legend regarding the Naga script, it was given to the people on animal skin which, when nobody was looking, was eaten by a dog leading to the script being lost forever. Certain variations to the legend also claim that the Assamese script was given on stone for which it endured as against the Naga script on animal hide which perished.

Legendary Folktale Behind the Origin of the Ao Tribe

Out of 16 recognised tribes of Nagaland, the Aos are considered as the second largest ethnic group. Chungliyimti, the watershed village in Nagaland holds the symbolic significance behind the legendary folk tale of the ancestry of the Aos. It is believed that the ancestors of the first tribe to embrace Christianity in Nagaland ; i.e the Aos emerged from the six stones which are still in the village of Chungliyimti.

Songhay Cowhide Patterns (2)

The terminology for cowhide patterns remedies this imprecision. One can say that it is a photographic – chromatic thumbnail – index to the expanded spectrum of combinations.  The best way to gauge its efficiency is to compare standard patterns. Our main informant, an experienced herdsman, estimates that he can recognize up to 120 patterns, but the full count may come close to 150. For the most part, these names are originally borrowed from Fulfulde, the language of the traditionally herding Fulbe (Fula).

Songhay Cowhide Patterns (1)

In Gao and vicinity, it is common to hear announcements of lost cattle on local radio. To be useful, the message must contain fairly precise descriptions. For example, let’s take a red cow – in Songhay, haw (cow), ciray (red). To be sure, the phrase haw ciray is correct, as it literally means “red cow”. Then, why does such a description amuse some villagers just a few kilometres away from town?

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