We take a moment this week to pause between learning-intensive three month seasons of our online classes to laugh, stomp and just have fun. In last week's class we wrapped up a week by week, country-by-country tour of a particular region of the world; next week we take our first step on a new road toward the same. The mission of this week's class is simply to sing our favorites. This time we greet each other as if we were villagers in India's far eastern Assam, lament the unexpected passing of a Cajun love, extol the virtues of a Central Asian strongman, laugh along with a sad Zimbabwean superstar and sing each other sweetly to sleep in the most widely spoken local language of Uganda. Next week? A new region of the world, bringing lessons full of new knowledge intended to remain in your brain.
This week in class we sing:
"Ilelele" is a welcome/greeting song from the Abor/Adi people from India's far eastern state of Assam. (More.)
We sing "We Are Happy," a hello song from Uganda, to open every All Around This World class. This week we sing hello in the Indian language of Assamese: "Nomoskar."
"J'ai passé" is a classic Cajun tune that tells the sad tale of a man who ventures by the front door of somone he loves and finds that she has passed away. (More.)
A LITTLE MORE
This week in class we sing, “Ilelele,” which is our loose interpretation – quite loose – of a song from the far-eastern Indian state Assam. I first heard it on the Smithsonian Folkways recording, “Songs of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and the Andamans” (lisSongs of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and the Andamansted as “Abor No. 4”). According to the album’s liner notes the song “is usually sung on occasions when some guests are received by the village folk,” and summarizes the lyrics like this: “Many people from outside are our guests this evening. The people of our village have also gathered. So you girls should now sing loudly and entertain the assembly here with whatever music they want to hear.”
Assam is a far eastern Indian state nestled at the foot of the Himalayas between Bhutan and Bangladesh. Assam is a center of eco-tourism in India, promoting itself as the home of Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, and the almost-but-not-quite extinct one-horned Indian rhinoceros.
Assamese culture is a fluid mix of influences from the many ethnic groups that have mingled in the region, like North Indian Vedics, Tibetans, Burmas, Shan and many others from as far east as China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
The “Abor,” also known as the Adi, primarily live in the hills above the Assamese plains. The plains-dwelling Assamese traditionally viewed the Abor as people who wouldn't adhere to governmental or societal norms. In fact, according to this excerpt from “History and culture of the Adis” by Dr. Tai Nyori, “the word Abor is generally believed to be of Assamese origin and is a compound of two Assamese words A and Bori. 'A' a negative particle means 'not', while 'Bori' means 'submitted' which means "one who does not submit" or "one who does not owe any allegiance to anybody"; and thus an equivalent to 'independent.'” The term “Adi” itself means “mountain top.”
Here is the Sand Family band performing our version of the song at a backyard house party in Massachusetts in the summer of 2017.