Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New album 'Home' released!


I am so excited to release 'Home' officially as a digital download! Now on iTunes, Amazon, etc.. More details on the new blog HERE, where you can learn how to download two of the songs for free.

You can also stream all the songs online via Bandcamp:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Album, New Blog site!

My new album 'Home' is almost done! I'm getting ready to release it at the end of the month, but for now you can pre-order the digital release on Bandcamp for $7. I hope you enjoy the 6 songs, which you can stream live on the site. I'm also posting every couple days about the album on my new blog: - so if you follow me on Blogger, feel free to switch over to the new website blog!

Friday, January 25, 2013

You Don't Belong to Me

Here's a short video update and new song I wrote at the end of last year. Happy 2013!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thung Kba

DSC04013A few days ago I went with my friend Ruhi to their rice field ('hali') where they were finishing planting their first crop of rice, now that the rains have arrived. I was interested to learn how to plant rice, and to learn more about the process, as it's one of the many things I've never done before. Rice is a pretty big part of life around here, as it's the main food crop, and knowing the process of rice farming gives me a better understanding of Pnar language and culture.

DSC03919When we arrived, work had already started. One of the guys showed me how to run the plowing machine that turns the soil to allow the water in and make the paddy field the right kind of mud for planting the rice seedlings ('kba'). After plowing, they showed me how to plant rice ('thung kba'), which refers literally to the process of punching your hand into the mud with a few seedlings so that it sticks. I was pretty slow compared to everyone else, but they humored me and seemed to be glad/surprised that I stayed and worked until all the paddy fields were planted.

DSC03962It was a lot of fun, and it's been awhile since I've done that kind of work. It's back-breaking, particularly for someone my height, and reminded me of some of my days in construction. There's something about hard, physical labor that I really enjoy, maybe because you can see actual measurable results. And it was lots of fun because everyone was talking and joking and laughing. It made me wish I understood and spoke more Pnar so I could join in.

DSC04006After planting was done, we hung out by the little house the farmers use during planting time and as they are preparing to plant. It was good to relax and share a meal after a day of hard work and sunburn (at least on my part). Here's a picture with the whole group.

I've got some video, but the video site I use is down at the moment, so I'll upload it when I can and link to it on here.

EDIT: Here's the video below.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Naming Ceremony

Last week I was invited by my friend Heibormi Sungoh to observe a traditional Jaintia naming ceremony in Shangpung, a town not too far from Jowai. This was the third and final part of the naming ceremony, and as things went along they explained bits and pieces to me.

The first thing that happened was the family arriving at the home where the event was taking place. The wife's family brought gifts of alcohol and food, and each person bringing items gave a greeting/invocation which the family responded to in kind. After some time, all the men of the family gathered outside the home, drank rice beer, and discussed the event. Once the event had been deliberated over, the gathering moved inside where all the women of the family were sitting and discussing. Then the invocation was given by the priest for 45 minutes or so.

The invocation is a sort of chant that apparently tells the story of the first birth and how the Pnar people got help from the plants and animals, in particular a certain kind of grass who helped them to deal with birth and began the naming process. During the chanting, the priest continued rubbing mustard seed oil on three blades of grass which he held between his fingers. Once the chanting had completed, he put one piece of grass above the door and cast the other two on the ground when recommended names were given. If the grass fell a certain way three times, the name was given to the child.


P5050006Following this part of the ceremony, food was served, and the men once again convened after eating to continue their discussion of what had taken place. After some rice beer, the men reached some sort of agreement. The recordings I made still need to be analysed, but according to some of my friends they contain a lot of 'ktein kynnoh', which are idioms that are difficult to translate into English.

In the evening a local dance troupe came to present the traditional plate dance, and following the dance Heibormi and some other friends joined them with traditional music and song. I was able to film the whole thing, and here are a couple pictures of me with the group.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rongkhla Tiger Festival

P3170028Last month some friends and I visited Nongtalang, a village south of Jowai where they speak the War language. My Pnar friends were going to document and record clips for the news channel, and I went along for the experience. A couple of my Australian friends came as well, since the event was a local festival that happens relatively rarely. This festival is called Rongkhla, and can only occur after a large cat has been killed ("khla" means 'tiger'). You can read more about the festival at my friend Rev. Mohrman's blog here.

DSC00263We really enjoyed the festivities - the dancers wore very colorful clothes and the music was lively. Most of the dancers wore traditional clothes, and people who liked their dancing would clip money to their shirts. It was quite an exciting experience. After the main event, the cat was carried down to the edge of town where the memorial stones stand, and at the end of the day the meat of the animal was thrown out to the onlookers. We were told that if you can eat a piece of the meat it brings good luck for the rest of the year.

For some video of the event (including where I got to drive on the Indian side of the road), check out this link or watch below:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ma Kamai

DSC00056Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Jaintia Arts and Culture Museum here in Jowai, which is the brainchild of Ma Kamai War, a local musician and caretaker of all things Pnar and an adherent of the traditional Ă‘iamtre belief system. He very kindly sat with me and recorded an interview in Pnar, explaining the history of the museum, how it started in 1993 and what its purpose is - to keep alive the knowledge of Pnar culture and arts. He then described each of the artifacts he has collected, from clothing to farming tools, dishes, baskets and instruments, carefully climbing over some things in order to get to others.

Amazingly, he has done this almost completely without external funding, though he could certainly benefit from funding that would help him expand the room he keeps everything in and turn it into a true display that people could wander through. To learn more about Jaintia artifacts, you can view his webpage here, and I'm hoping to edit the video soon, for a more interactive description.