World Music – A tribute to Mama Yangyang

I love music from all over the world. Having grown up in a small fishing village outside Lae, Papua New Guinea, music and dance is part of our rhythmic flow of planting, gathering and harvesting for our families. Songs are composed in dreams. They talk about people, our ancestors, and our life.  Music and dance celebrates us as people. It creates and reassures us of our cultural identity.

From as early as three-years-old I had my own dancing costumes. I sang and danced We-e Si-ing, Bu-sim Awe-e, and Sabic. These are types of dancing. I was already learning to make my own costumes from leaves, shells and other natural materials. I was singing and dancing with my aunties. My aunty Yangyang, her nickname for “Yellow” because she was born with pale skin; was one of the best dancers and singers in our village.

My aunty Yellow died two weeks ago. I pay tribute to her and her amazing life which I was part of. Like most women in my family, she could take and master tasks meant for men as well as women. She was fit and strong and very hard-working. Mama Yangyang taught me so many skills; from fishing, gardening, crafting to dancing and singing.

My life is rich with knowledge and skills because Aunty ‘Yellow’, my mother, grandmother and many others have taught me so much about our culture.  These women gave me the fabric of my being and my passage which connects me to nature and the earth. Living in a western society is so different. It feels lonely and isolated sometimes. I miss those days when we all, three generation of girls and women, singing and dancing together.

In the past month, I have been taking two courses in the arts, one being World Music. World Music is a term which may evolve as time passes, but at the moment, it refers to music that is not western. The term “foreign” was used, but to me, western music is “foreign” so it just depends on who you are and how you look at it. World Music stirs a unique emotion in me. The music, whichever culture it comes from, reminds me of who I am and it connects me to my own people that I do not see often enough. All I need to do is close my eyes and I am there.

As past of daily rituals, people in many indigenous cultures sing and dance. This is such an uplifting and exhilarating part of life’s journey.

Here is a dedication to my Aunty Yellow and a small taster for those of you that do not know the African kora. In this clip the kora is being played by one few (rare) women players from Ghana, Sona Jobarteh. I hope you like her music.



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