Cultural Voice eZine

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Peace in Nepal: Hari Bangsha Kirant

© HBKPhotography. All Rights Reserved.

We live in uncertain times. This sentiment echoes through the photographs of Hari Bangsha Kirant, President of the UNESCO Clubs Federation of Nepal. His mission is to always strive for peace, and he speaks with great hope and appreciation for the road on which Nepal has had to travel to be where it is as a country today.
Photographer and UNESCO Activist,
Hari Bangsha Kirant
"Nepal is working hard for peace and writing a new constitution."

When asked about the efforts towards peace in Nepal, Hari shares that there is pressure placed on the political parties in Nepal from the civil society and the media and this is where the change is happening. He shares that he has lived through four different political shifts in Nepal and believes that they are all equally inportant and have helped in the process of democratizing Nepal. He is very concerned with languages on the verge of extinction in Nepal and told our representative that the government was in the process of commissioning a language survey to be carried out soon. He shares that there are approximately 110 languages spoken in Nepal. The development of the Creative Industries plays a big role in Nepal's development and music, art, and craft are more developed than other creative sectors.

Landscape of Nepal, Source: Indulgy
In Nepal the mountainous region in the North is home to eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali containing more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft above sea level.
Map of Nepal, Source:


Sunday, 25 March 2012

From Skin Drums to Innovation! Panorama Part 1

'Panman from Silver Stars band'

We at Cultural Voice love to hear good Caribbean rythms and were delighted to be party to the finals of Panorama 2012 in Port of Spain Trinidad. The palpable energy of the patrons supporting the bands was engaging. Fans followed favourite bands from point of entry on one side of the Queens Park Savannah to their departure, truly embracing the participation of all in this experience. To share this experience with you we thought it fitting to do a bit of google research on the development of Panorama. In this first blog on Panorama we share our findings with you... 

Although Panorama was officially launched in 1963 by the government of Trinidad and Tobago and the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS), the origins date centries before. In the 19th Century, Carnival celebrations were primarily linked to the beating of skin drums. However, with the imposition of a ban on drum beating imposed in 1884 players turned to bamboo to produce sounds, leading to the proliferation of Tamboo Bamboo bands. This flurished in Carnivals until the 1930s.

Members of the Pan Group Silver Stars
 getting ready to cross the Savannah's stage"

In 1935, it is recorded that Gonzales (Port-of-Spain) Tamboo Bamboo Band took to the streets of carnival with a 'bass can' and it instantly became a hit. After this aspiring 'metal can' players all over Trinidad began crafting the bottoms of any metal containers (pans) that they could find, by pounding and partitioning the flat ends with hammers and steel punches to create different sounds. More info on the history of pan development.

'Silver Stars, a Large Steelband group
placed 3rd in the 2012 Competition'

The four main steelband categories in the Panorama competition:

  • Large Conventional Steelbands - minimum of 95 and a maximum of 120 players.
  • Medium Conventional Steelbands - minimum of 60 and a maximum of 90 players.
  • Small Conventional Steelbands - minimum of 35 and a maximum of 55 players.
  • Single Pan Bands - minimum of 25 and a maximum of 45 players.

Innovator: Elliott Mannette

"Pan as an item was not invented by any person. It evolved and there are a number of people, including myself, who advanced it through certain stages of that evolution.” (Elliott Mannette, October 25, 2000)

Elliott Mannette, a legend in the world of pan in Trinidad and Tobago was an innovator. He was the first tuner to use a 55-gallon oil drum for crafting pans. His tenor design included 29 notes that transcended four octaves and encompassed the complete chromatic scale, from B in the first octave
to E in the fourth octave. This tenor design, characterized by an F# in the center of the pan, became a standard that was used by many bands throughout the country, until the late 1960s. His double-second design, developed in the late 1950s, withstood the test of time to remain a standard throughout the country into the 21st century. More information on Elliott Mannette


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Days in the Lives of Jamaicans: Garfield Ellis Writes History

Garfield Ellis, Source: 2 Season Guest House

One can only assume that someone's favourite song gives key insight into the frame of mind and the style of that individual. Garfield Ellis, Jamaican writer of 5 books, 3 novels and 2 collections of short stories shared his favourite song with us.

Nature Boy - Duane Stephenson speaks of humanity's losing sight of what is most important to our existence. With lyrics such as  "Millions for guns and bombs, and making trips to Mars, Nature Boy is this your great vision of democracy..." there is a definate sense of holding ourselves accountable for how we act in the world.

Garfield Ellis, a positive force in the literary landscape has made it his mission to write the histories of Jamaicans in an effort to provide lasting memories accessible to the world. He focuses on everyday Jamaican life.  At "Love Affair with Literature" hosted by the Department of Literatures at the University of the West Indies, Ellis shared passages from his Novel "Till I'm Laid To Rest", a story of a Jamaican Immigrant in the United States and her experiences. The descriptions of time, place and scene brought the characters to life and dialogues were sharp and showcased true Jamaican interactions.

Garfield Ellis shares excepts from
'Till i'm Laid to Rest 'during UWI's
'Love Affair with Literature' March 2011

Garfield is a two-time winner of the Una Marson prize for adult literature; in the first instance for his first collection of short stories, Flaming Hearts (pub. 1997), and later for the manuscript of his novel, Till I’m Laid To Rest due out in (May 2010).

Source: Repeating Islands


More info on  Garfield Ellis

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Ever Heard of Koogere the Great Female Ruler and Entrepreneur of Western Uganda's Oral Tradition?

Contributor: Akugizibwe Solomon

Within the Koogere oral tradition there is a popular story describing successes of a reign of a great woman ruler and entrepreneur called Koogere who was a chief of Busongora chiefdom in the ancient Kitara Empire during the Batembuzi dynasty about 1500 years ago.

The Batembuzi Dynasty
  • Batembuzi means harbingers or pioneers.
  • The Batembuzi and their reign are not well documented, and are surrounded by a lot of myth and oral legend. 
  • It is believed that their reign dates back to the height of Africa’s bronze age.
  • The number of individual Batembuzi reigns, as given by different scholars, ranges from nine to twenty one.

Uganda, Source: C Education

Kitara was the biggest African empire south of the Sahara, stretching from Madi and Bukidi present day Eastern Uganda to Karagwe in Northern Tanzania and Ituri and Bulenga both in the present day Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. The story is told among the communities of former Bunyoro and Tooro Kingdoms and mainly Busongora (Kasese district) where Koogere ruled as a chief and which was the headquarters and epicentre of the empire. Koogere is the only
surviving story covering the ancient times of the communities in the two kingdoms.

The story which has been orally passed on, from generation to generation, is told through a set of episodes, sayings, words of wisdoms, poems and folksongs which describe wisdom and achievement of a heroine-Koogere and the socio-economic prosperity of the chiefdom during her reign.

 Rehema Kobusinge being enthroned as the Koogere in Fort Portal

The story presents Koogere, who was a daughter of King Ngozaaki Bitahinduka as the richest and wisest person in the world.” Koogere got a chance to display her wisdom and enterprise skills when King Isaaza Nyakikoto decided to appoint women to govern the different provinces of the kingdom. She built a lot of wealth for herself and the entire chiefdom as presented in sayings, poems and folksongs which describe the actions and behaviour of massive cows which were a sign of wealth.

Hence popular and very old sayings like “Busongora bwa Koogere mbere ikamwa niboroga” and specialised songs and poems for cows “ebizina byente na enanga” which form a big percentage of the traditional folklore of these communities.

The story describes Koogere’s success in using female servants to interpret numerous riddles and save the kingdom which task had failed all people in the “world” It is from this that the story presents
Koogere as the wisest person in the world.

The Koogere story is often told:
  • When people are resting collectively after a satisfying accomplishment.
  • By herdsmen while resting under a shade looking at their satisfied cows.
  • During a family social evening around a fire place (Hakyoto Mukairirizi).
  • During elders discussion sessions (Isaaza).
  • Presented in celebrations after a social accomplishment told by specialised story tellers and poets.
  • It is perfomed by semi-specialised music groups which present some aspect of the story especially the folklore during social ceremonies.
  •  In the folksongs, men and women act different roles reflecting gender roles in pastoralist communities.

His Majesty King Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru
the First, from the Royal Biito Dynasty is the Forty-ninth Omukama
of Bunyoro-Kitara. He is the twenty-seventh King (Omukama) of
 Bunyoro in pic with Her Majesty Queen
Margaret Karungaof Bunyoro-Kitara

The Koogere oral tradition provides themes for the biggest part of the traditional folklore of the concerned communities. This story gives a basis of value and belief system which survives in
these communities today. For instance, the belief that wisdom is inherited from a mother and not father. All married women are called “Nyina Bwenge” literally translated as “mother of wisdom” women are custodians of the home’s wealth and the man’s blessings and power. Unmarried man can’t make wealth and should not be given public responsibilities, etc.

The Koogere oral tradition therefore, is a vehicle which carries the communities’ beliefs and value systems from generation to generation. The Koogere story facilitates reflection, meditation, relaxation, generation of ideas and intergerational transfer of information. It embodies and propagates the core belief and values of the concerned communities.

Photograph:Western Uganda is bordered by several mountain ranges.
Uganda is bordered by many mountains
Source: Encyclopedia Britanica
The Koogere oral tradition which is about 1500 years old presents the oldest collective philosophy, knowledge, imaginations and memory of the communities concerned. It presents the oldest sayings and language in its original version. Therefore, among the concerned communities, Koogere oral tradition gives a sense of identity and continuity and it is a basis of building confidence, creativity and mutual respect.

Thanks to:
Akugizibwe Solomon
Forgotten Diaries Blogger from Uganda

First Published on Forgotten Diaries

Sunday, 4 March 2012

"Cinti" shares on TT Carnival, NYC Dance Life and World Peace!

Cynthia "Cinti" Salandy

There's lots to talk about when you have the opportunity to sit with Cynthia Salandy! We caught up with Cynthia while on location in Trinidad and Tobago for 2012's Carnival! Certainly something Cultural Voice recommends as a must-do for all our readers!

Something Positive on stage
Something Positive on Stage. Photo by Zoe Mocker
Something Positive
Something Positive in the Studio. Photo by Zoe Mocker

"Cinti" is the Associate Director of "Something Positive"

Cynthia, affectionately known as "Cinti" is the Associate Director of Something Positive, a dance company based in NYC, started dancing at age 17 in Diego Martin, Trinidad. Her career started through the community based programme called "Best Village" and all the different communities in and around Trinidad would compete for bragging rights and a trophy.

Best Village

"The programme seeks to preserve, protect, and build on our Folk Traditions, and to facilitate the growth of our national culture through competition"  (tt connect)-  More Info on Best Village Competition

 'Tribe' and 'Yuma' - Diluting the cultural relevance of carnival?

"Cinti" hasn't lived in Trinidad in 30 years, but is still pleased with what she observes in her frequent visits, as many of the competitions which were around in her time still exist and have grown and  she believed that it takes the children off the street and gives them something to do.

She played mass with the band 'K2K' for Trinidad Carnival because she feels connected to the story and gets a sense of meaningful involvement. She suggests that many of the newer bands such as Tribe, and Yuma that many of the younger generation players gravitate towards, may be diluting the storytelling and cultural aspect of what carnival means to Trinidad.


K2K originated from the desire to fill a gap in the Carnival market. The designs are meant to be sophisticated, glamorous and chic and cater to the masquerader who is looking to be part of a bigger story; a moving canvas of artistic expression.

Costume, Red Sea Source:
Although the theme of the costumes changes each year, K2K’s inspiration will incorporate fashion concepts from icons throughout the ages. Each piece /costume is expertly constructed to ensure that the masquerader feels comfortable, yet stylish and powerful

Costume, Sea-of-Galilee Source:

K2K's Goals:
(i) to be an effective storyteller
(ii) to re-invent cinematic beauty through choreography and design
 (iii) to win “Band of the Year”.

Life as an Artist in NYC

"Cinti" shares that her biggest constraint working in the dance and theatre industry in NYC is a financial one.

She is not much for politics in Trinidad, but shared that in NYC when there are budget cuts politicians usually target the Arts as expendable. She notes however that as a child her ability to develop her artistic side gave her a good balance. "Cinti" strongly believes that artistic expression gives children the ability to express themselves in new ways.

Quick Facts: "Cinti"

  • Does Custume Design for Universities in NY
  • Works for Neighbourhood Assistance Corporation of America - restructuring mortgages for persons in jeapordy
  • Favorite Food: Pelau/ Stew Chicken

"Cinti" on World Peace

"Cinti" believes that World Peace can be achieved and it should start with each and every one of us. "Peace begins with me." If each one of us can find some way to  realise that yes, people are different but we can accept and learn to live with each other and our differences, then it is achievable.

Cultural Icon:
Cheryl Barron
A very good friend and teacher to "Cinti"

Cheryl Byron
Rapso Music Pioneer and Something Positive Founder, Cheryl Byron. Portrait by Anthony Cox