INSTRUMENTAL July 21, 1972 - 21A Ebago Drumming & Awawas
Place of Recording: Ebago
Date of Recording: July 21, 1972
Performance: Ebago village
Informant: Paul Abulla and Henry Akway
Date of Transcript: September 29, 1972
000 1 Drumming.
Information: Using 2 drums. Call the girls together. Girls come first and move around the drum. Stand in a straight line. Start singing. Goes in a line, tallest down to the smallest. Should be led by a leader. The sound and quality of the drumming is not good.
2 020 Awawa.
Information: Girls in a line using back and forth movement with hands. The leader of girls checks all to see who is not active and will encourage them. Encourage them to make movements. All will be the same. Has no meaning.
3 095 Awawa.
Information: This song is for the chief. Girls are still in line. Simply praising the chief.
4 152 Awawa.
Information: Boys coming. Running around sticks, and spears. Funny decorations. They circle the area. Artificial spears. Boys are jumping up and girls will jump up also. And return to place they came. Some girls jump. 2 or 3 only. Will have horse hair hanging from arms. Jumping up. With arm movements to throw the hair. In the girl’s eyes or for show. Boys have not come yet. (The girls must be active. If not, they have the right to be beaten) Not good work as yet.
5 286 Awawa.
Information: Still no boys. Section still spasmodic waiting the coming of the boys.
6 351 Awawa.
Information: Boys probably coming here. Drumming improves and the singing becomes more intense. Another false start. Gains new strength but dies out again. Drums stops and starts. Still nothing as far as action is concerned. Renewed strength. This is sounding like a larger group now. Strong singing continues.
ANUAK Project: FIELD NOTES – July 21, 1972
Retyped: June 11, 2019
9:30 We make arrangements for the use of the boat. The day is overcast with a light rain falling.
10:00 We leave Pokwo, moving down river to Ebago. The rain has picked up and beats against our faces soaking Mark who has to face into the wind. At first, we have difficulty getting the motor started as it has a tendency to stall, but we eventually move down stream quickly.
10:40 We arrive at Ebago and are met by the children who have heard the boat. We walk through the mud to the drum house where we find a warm fire, men sitting around and the children allowed to come in under the shelter. It doesn’t look too hopeful for much today unless the rain lets up. We sit for quite a while until the children are told to dress and get ready. The sky lightens, the rain stops and by 11:40 the drums are taken out to the dance area. The dance area is spacious covered with cut grass laid flat to soak up moisture and provide a soft dance floor. Two smaller drums are placed here and the beating of the drums begins. But by the younger boys at first.
12:00 Several girls (5-7) plus a couple of the women begin to the singing with the rhythmic moving back and forth of the bodies and the hand motions to the accompaniment of the drums. As the other women get ready, some putting on western style dresses, others wearing outlandish costumes of what they have, a netting for a hat, various costume type garb, they join the line of singers, until the line consists of all the women and girls of the village.
The younger boys then come running and circling the girls and the drums which is a prelude of the older men to do the same. At first however, they bring out the huge drum and place it on another double stand in another place where they beat it and sing and dance around. Some are covered with ashes. A couple have their faces whitened with ash, a couple have their hair whitened and at least one has his hair half white and half black. One of two are wearing feathers in their hair, and oft time with the "wa wa wa" hands covering mouth and opening again in Indian fashion. This could be happening in North America.
The entire group of girls and ladies have now assumed their places and now the men come from back of the area, brandishing their spears and clubs, making loud noises, jumping and running and making menacing motions with their spears and clubs, but all with a smile on their faces. They circle the area several times.
The order of the dances from 12:00 until about 2:30 are by now quite confused in my mind. With the general dancing, then comes inward and outward movement of both girls and men. With strutting and boasting gestures by both sexes, much jumping, much preening, almost like the mating dances of the animals. The activity is continuous. Though time is taken to rest between sections. The drummers are trading off continuously, many drums very well. All activity is high rhythmic to the shuffle motions of the feet the movements of the arms the bells and cans with rocks in them, and other jingling thing on the legs of some, and the singing of the various leaders and followers.
It is interesting to also note that children from very young to teens are welcome in the dances and the singing, seemingly excluded from none. There are at least 4 strong leaders of song. Two most respected older men who are both excellent. Showing great style in strutting and moving around and being in command of the situation and singing with clear and strong voices. A younger fellow, perhaps two of about 20-25 years in age sing also very well but not with the authority of the older. In addition, a very young boy, seemingly an apprentice sings (about 12) and the group follows his leading though mostly the children follow him strongly. An extraordinary performance for many reasons. The inclusion of all ages is most interesting. All ages and both sexes are accepted and form an integral part of the show.
Various parts are seen. The general dancing which makes up an early part and also a later part of the program with singing going on all the time. The preening for the opposite sex, the boys being refused or accepted by the girls, the pairing off of boys’ and girls’ older men and older women. I suspect their wives, while others, not chosen watch from the sideline or show their disappointment by trying to encourage some man to choose them. The war dances with the men brandishing their weapons in mock ferocity, the leaping motions at the first part by the young and then the older boys and the women. The singing of new and older songs in a very rhythmic way with movement all the time.
Foot movements and leg movements seem to be limited to a shuffle approach though there seems to be various forms of this. The film should show it. No integrated dance steps however. There is a great deal of jumping however.
Body movement: limited to back and forward movement from the waist accompanied with the hands in a similar way.
Arm and hand movement: accompanies the body movement as above, also gestures of war, gestures of rowing a canoe, gestures of supplication from the women. The movements are free and not synchronized, and are improvised. Head movements: head usually held back in a proud way but with no special shaking or action of its own. The overall impression is one of body freedom, total involvement, having a good time, tiring themselves out in free physical expression.
It was obvious because of the behavior of several that they had had too much to drink beforehand. How much drinking enters into an uninhibited performance remains to be seen. But it does play a part. One lady became quite upset about something, and the man in charge of the village led her off quite forcefully when she became physically abusive. The play of children bears a resemblance more than a little.
After sitting down and resting the people (the entire village, perhaps 300 or more) wanted their pictures taken, so various groups would form a line and I was obliged to take their pictures, another line would form and so on. I then began to play back a part of the activities of the day and they crowded around the tape recorder for a good place to hear. While they were listening, I retreated with Paul into the drum house and was immediately followed by the older men and the man who was in charge of the village. Before going in, however, Paul talked with the older man alone and agreed on the price of $30.00 for the performance. He then paid this amount. After counting the amount, there was much serious talk. About the money or perhaps about some other affair, since Paul is well respected. Nevertheless, after the transaction, the men continued to talk about the distribution of the money, or what to do with it. It was later divided up and distributed to various groups. They seemed satisfied with the amount though I’m sure they would have been happier with more. After further talk, and after taking shots of the drums and the general area, we got into our boat and headed back up stream.
4:00 Arrive home.
Five rolls of movie film were shot through more should have been. Unfortunately, we did not bring enough, and Mark went back for more. Four rolls of Agfa and one roll of Kodak J 134367. At least 2 rolls of Agfa slides were also taken. One may have been exposed for in my haste, I opened the back before rewinding the film. I realized quickly what I had done and closed it quickly but damage may have been done.
Expenses for the day; $30.00 for village.
Drum dimensions as follows:
Great drum 26” head
30”at widest point
Middle size 14-15” head
Small drum 13” head
Smallest 9 1/2 head
15 ½ high.
Sticks: 13 ½ “long