Music of Timor: an online exhibit for the ITLSC meeting at AAS 2017

Research Items

Click on the name of an item to see a full description.

Musée du quay Branly Collection: Louis Berthe (1956)

Berthe collected over 970 material objects in his travels, including 9 musical instruments, all of which are now part of the permanent collection of the Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris, France. These latter are available for online viewing through the museum's website: 

Sur Quelques Distiques Buna’ (1959)

Sur Quelques Distiques Buna’ (Timor Central) (1959) may be the most that Berthe ever wrote on the subject of Timorese music. In this article Berthe writes of the way that the annual agricultural cycle structures the ritual calendar of the Bunaq in Lamaknen, and he goes into a nice degree of detail about each of the major celebrations that accompany events of harvest and sowing. He writes lovingly of the singing and dancing that occurs as a part of each event: young and old, men and women, gathered together, lit by torches, sweaty from the rain and the journey and the day’s events, dancing rounds and singing together until dawn (339). 

From Eden to Paradise (1963)

In her 1963 book Eden to Paradise, King includes a chapter on Music, Song, and Dance. The chapter begins with a challenge to the reader and would-be listener: “the musical life of the Timorese,” she says, “possesses a richness and complexity of structure and design surpassed only by their fine textiles. For the person fortunate to penetrate beyond the apparent monotonous repetition it provides a rare and rewarding experience” (130).

The Eagle Dance of At Sabe (1965)

In this paper, King “describes and illustrates the Eagle Dance of At Sabe” (49), which she observed in her fieldwork in 1960-61. “The dance,” she writes, “is a mimed performance of the hunting and defence of nesting eagles," which simultaneously dramatizes the defence of Timor against attacking outsiders.  

Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie Archives: Campagnolo Collection (1966)

The Campagnolos made several audio recordings in the course of their research, and many of these document musical performances. These recordings have never been published, but they are archived at the Centre de Recherche Ethnomusicologie, and a collection of 121 of their 1966 audio recordings is available for listening online at the Centre's website. [Click here to view CREM's Campagnolo Collection.]

Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie Archives: Friedberg Collection (1969-73)

Freidberg was married to the ethnographic researcher Louis Berthe, leader of the équipe Timor, and the two collaborated as part of the team in 1966, working with Bunaq communities in Lamaknen. They made several recordings in the course of their 1966 work, and 83 of these recordings are archived and publicly available at the Centre de Recherche Ethnomusicologie in the Louis Berthe collection.

Bei Gua Itinéraire des Ancêtres: Mythes des Bunaq de Timor (1972)

Claudine Berthe-Friedberg helped to bring this posthumous work of Berthe’s to publication in 1972. In it, the two recount details of a number of Bunaq myths, offering transcriptions in Bunaq and translations into French. In terms of musical content, they very briefly discuss the important roles of Bunaq bards, called Lal Gomo, the "guardians of the customs and the genealogies" (49) [translation mine].

Chants des Ema (1979)

In 1979, French record label Le Chant du Monde published 14 of Clamagirand's recordings on LP as part a series called Editions Musée de l'Homme-CNRS. The recording has long since gone out of print, but it is archived and made available to the public, along with excellent French and English liner notes written by Clamagirand, at the Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie:

Rythmes et genres dans la litterature orale des Fataluku de Lorehe (1979)

In 1979, drawing on the data they gathered with the équipe Timor, the Campagnolos co-authored an article called “Rythmes et genres dans la litterature orale des Fataluku de Lorehe (Timor Oriental).” The article presents a detailed analysis of the “verbal scores” (21) of several Fataluku chants (that is, the analysis assesses the lyrics of these chants, treated separately from the ornaments that performers may add when singing).

Recordings for the Smithsonian Music of Indonesia project in Indonesian Timor (1993, 1997)

Volumes 16 and 20 of the twenty-CD Music of Indonesia series feature recordings from Timor, gathered in two trips. The first trip was in 1993, to record Rotenese sasando and meko (gong-ensemble) in Kab. Kupang. The second was in 1997, to record Meto leku sene (gong-ensemble) in Kab. Timor Tengah Utara (TTU);  Meto and Tetun accompaniment for the bidu dance in Kab. TTU and Belu; Tetun tebe lilin songs in Kab. Belu; and Bunaq tei (round dance) songs in Lamaknen, Belu.

New Grove & Oxford Music Online encyclopedia articles on West Timorese music

Basile has also authored encyclopedia articles on West Timor for both the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and Grove Music Online. Both articles focus on the musical traditions of the Atoni, including the "ritually significant sene tufu (gong and drum) ensemble,” and koa, “a type of song in which the singer rhythmically speaks the text to musical accompaniment, a style that younger Atoni compare with rap” (Yampolsky et. al, 1998).

Recordings of Biboki vocal music in Indonesian Timor (2006)

In 2006 I recorded several vocal genres in the Biboki region of TTU. This recording trip took place near the end of my Ford contract.  I was determined to make another recording before I left the country, and I had some unused vacation time.  As a result of the Smithsonian work I had become very interested in the music of the southeastern islands (Nusa Tenggara Timur), particularly, at that time, Flores.

Recordings and documentation of Fataluku vocal genres in Lautem, Timor-Leste (2011, 2012)

My research in Timor-Leste, which led to my full-time preoccupation with Timor, began by accident.  In July 2011, the government of Timor-Leste launched its Akademia Arte no Indústria Kriativa with a festival and symposium.  Out of the blue, one of the organizers of the event, David Palazón, invited me to come and speak at the symposium1 and he offered some money for me to travel around for a week or so afterwards, accompanied by a photographer.  Intrigued, I went.  But I had no research plan, so I didn’t know where to travel to.

Lian Husi Klamar (2012)

Lian Husi Klamar [Sounds of the Soul], is a bilingual English and Tetun book about the musical culture of East Timor. which was published in 2012. The book combines Dunlop's considerable research and documentation with rich imagery from Arte Moris to create a very accessible book about "the musical culture of East Timor" (17). The book includes an audio CD and a DVD with rich examples from many traditions.

Preservation of Endangered Forms of Fataluku Cultural Expression: Musical Instruments (2012-13)

Researchers from MHI documented seven musical instruments used by Fataluku people, including six wind instruments and one percussion instrument. Wind instruments include a bamboo flute called oi-oil (played singly or doubly); two types of bamboo trumpets called keko and fara-fara; an oboe-like instrument called a moto me’n-me’n; a bamboo string-pull jaw harp called pepur; and a conch-shell trumpet called puhu-puhu. The lone percussion instrument in the collection is the kakal, a suspended wooden xylophone.

Preservation of Endangered Forms of Fataluku Cultural Expression: Sacred House Inauguration (2012-13)

Many Hands researchers documented two rituals that include music and dance performances. Le masule is one such ritual, held to "‘cleanse’ a newly built sacred house," (Many Hands International 2017, "rituals").  The ceremony includes vaihoho; the related orontafa, a "passionate call and response vaihoho," sung to the rhythm of large mortars and pestles pounding grain; and processions of women playing hand drums and gongs.

Preservation of Endangered Forms of Fataluku Cultural Expression: Lipal fa'i (2012-13)

Many Hands also documented a series of rituals that accompany a traditional wedding, many of which include music. During the negotiation of the wedding contract, called valahana, women may sing vaihoho while they wait, making sticky rice cakes called maca-maca as they sing. After settling the bride price, the bride's family sings again as they pound unhulled rice in a large mortar (oron) in a ritual called orontafa (Many Hands International 2017, "lipal fa'i").

Recordings of Tetun and Bunaq vocal music in Covalima, Timor-Leste (2014, 2015)

The next research opportunity that presented itself was not for Lautém but for the Suai region of Covalima, at the opposite end of Timor-Leste.  During my 2012 research in Lautém I had met the staff of the NGO Timor Aid, and in 2014 they told me they had secured a grant from the Prince Claus Fund to document traditional culture in Covalima.  The focus of the project was certain communities facing drastic changes as a result of the “Tasi Mane project” to develop the south coast as a hub for petroleum processing and distribution.

The indigenous music of East Timor and its relationship to the social and cultural mores and lulik worldview of its autochthonous people (2015)

Drawing on years of fieldwork, including interviews, images, conversations, and more than 80 audio and audio-visual recordings, Dunlop’s thesis is without question the most substantial and detailed study of East Timorese music to date. In it, she seeks to address several fundamental questions about East Timorese music, its uses in East Timorese society, and its relationships to lulik principles and practices.

Acculturated Music in Kore Metan Ceremony Among the East Timorese (2015)

In Acculturated Music in Kore Metan Ceremony Among the East Timorese, Yohanes don Bosko Bakok argues that the music of Kore Metan, an East Timorese mourning ceremony, contains discernible traces of Portuguese and Indonesian influence. The author compares Pulau Bali, a “keroncong song popular in Java and Bali” (125) with a piece of the same name that is frequently performed for Kore Metan ceremonies by a group of East Timorese refugees living in Kupang [Salton Group].

Recordings and Documentation of Tetun vocal genres in Kab. Malaka, Indonesian Timor (2016)

Now I had two ethnic groups to study, but no funding.  What I needed was a grant.  I had already, in 2014, applied for an NEH grant to study vaihoho (the Fataluku duets), but I didn’t get it.  In 2015 I applied again to NEH, and again I was turned down.  Having failed the first time with NEH, I also applied for a Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant—but Fulbright, while it sends scholars to Indonesia, does not send them to Timor-Leste.  So for Fulbright I proposed to study singing in Tetun communities on the Indonesian side of the border, about fifty miles west of where I had worked in 2015.  That grant came through, and I spent eleven months of 2016 documenting Tetun singing in Kab. Malaka (formerly the southern half of Kab. Belu).  By that time, my research directions had crystallized into the three I named earlier: recording and documentation of group singing, repatriation, and the technical study of sung poetry.

Recordings and comparative study of vaihoho and other Fataluku vocal genres in Lautem, Timor-Leste: Distrito Lautem (Projected: 2017, 2018)

I plan to follow the same three-pronged approach as last year: documentation, repatriation, technical investigation.  My main focus will be vaihoho, but I will also try to determine whether there are comparable forms of duet-singing among the other Papuan-language-speaking groups (Makasae, Makalero) at the eastern end of the island.  I want to probe Andrew McWilliam’s provocative suggestion (2007) that the Fataluku are “Austronesians in linguistic disguise.”  Musically, at least, I believe they are not: vaihoho is radically different from the music of Austronesian-language speakers farther west in Timor—and, notably, it has nothing in common with Bunaq singing, though Bunaq is also a Papuan language.