Saturday, 1 February 2014

Fara Way 4

                       “Untie the dove cord; when it is free it sings”
                                 Rotuman Proverb (applied to any girl who goes Fara)
“Was that a ukulele?” Asked Robyn, from under her fan.
“I think so.” I said. But I was wrong.
It was five ukuleles, two guitars, a drum, and thirty voices, which cracked open the still softness of the tropical night, with a thunderous chorus of slow rhythmic clapping, and three-part harmony.

  ‘Aus noa‘ia , ‘Aus noa‘ia gagaj ne hanue te‘ Noa‘ia
  ‘E garue maha ma re se kiu ‘a‘ana
  ‘Urtoa‘ het ne ‘a e na se ‘on la‘ lam lama Hea‘se‘ ka siriag ‘e av ta ‘e av ta
  ‘Ua motu lei lei sega talofa Rotuma.

  Greetings to you, greetings to you chiefly owner of the house
  Thank you for your hard work in preparing a thousand of taro
  The spear that you threw flew so high that I wish it broke history’s record
  An island so good, Greetings Rotuma.

There was a knock on the window.
“Robyn? Wink?” It was Julie. “It’s Fara time.”
We threw on our clothes quickly, and opened our powder blue door onto a landscape of faces, illuminated with hurricane lamps and flashlights. Sitting and swaying on a sea of pandanus mats, was an entire village from the other side of the island, shoes on the grass around them. The women had flower garlands in their hair and te fui around their necks, and waved their fans and rolled their torsos in time to the music.  The singing sounded Hawaiian, if the Hawaiian had been crossed with Finnish and Tongan, pushed back into their throats, and projected out in lyrical explosions. The enthusiasm of the younger children would roar into hollers or shouts. I saw Julie and the girls, moving stooped among the musicians, sprinkling them on the heads and shoulders with nau te perfume, or talcum powder, or both. At other houses we would get stick deodorant or Vaseline. Villagers of all ages got up to dance around the main body of minstrels. Men asked a woman to dance with a bug-eyed warrior stance, bending their knees and throwing an occasional leg sideways into the air. The women asked a man to dance more modestly, by bowing their heads and throwing their arms forward in supplication, or running a discrete hand up his back. And the men postured and the women undulated, and it was all very sexual and innocent and ridiculously romantic at the same time, and everyone was laughing and smiling and clapping, and rapturously happy, in tempo and in tune with the full moon, and the rest of the night sky and the crashing ocean just beyond. Everybody smiled like Julie smiled, and Robyn and I were exhilarated by all the excitement. We felt alive.
Between songs, the dancers, which would often make up almost half the travelling roundtrip Fara troupe, would sit down again, before the next ukulele strum and single voice would begin a new round of celebration. The songs were all about love and religion, unattainable or impossible, alone or in combination. Later in our stay, we would come to know why.

         Kepoi ka ‘a e ’ofa se gou ma gou la holi se ‘a e  
         La ‘itarua la rotuag ‘esea
         Ka ‘a e la na ea gou la maomaaetou
         La famori se ra ea ‘a e ma gou.
         Ma gou la leuof ‘e kis se ‘a ea ko le‘ ha n te‘
         La ‘itarua la rotuag ‘esea.

          If you love me, I will be converted to you 
          So that we will be in the same religion
          You will hide me so that I will be hard to find, 
          And that people will not see the two of us.
          When will I come to you my lady?
          So that we will be in the same religion living together.

They partied for almost half an hour, before the dancers sat down among the rest of the band, and Julie and her daughters, and her husband, brought out refreshments, of watermelon and bananas and pineapples and biscuits, and more sprinkling of powder and perfume. As the days went by, Robyn and I learned to recognize when this particular Fara group was about to leave, by the Noa‘ia noa‘ia song they would sing last, as a thank you to the hosts whose sleep they had interrupted.

    Noa‘ia, noa‘ia, noa‘ia ‘e ‘es kefkef pene‘isi‘ ma lol pene‘isi ma ‘amis
    täe la la‘atomis... Fu‘omus.
     Noa‘ia, noa‘ia Kaunohoag gagaj
     Kepoi ka teet re ‘e ‘otomis fara,
     Ro t ‘a k fu‘omusa ka ‘a m la ‘utuof se mua.
    Gagaja la hanisi a‘ roan ‘os ma uri
    Rere ta tera nit la po la ‘is la haipoag hoi‘a ki.

    Thank you Thank you Thank you for giving us sweet smelling powder
    And fragrant oil and we are leaving ... Farewell
    Thank you, thank you Chiefly household
    If there’s anything wrong in our ‘fara’
    Do forgive us and we are moving on
    Let us hope that the lord will lengthen the days of our lives
    So that one day we will meet again.

But this wouldn’t be the end of the formalities. The Fara troupe leader would express his thanks for the gifts.

               Noa‘ia ko gagaj ‘e ‘es lol pene‘isi
               Ma kef kef pene‘isi ma vaselin pene‘isi
               Ma sa n pene‘isi, ma ‘a mis ta e la la‘atomis
               Fu‘ omus.

                Thank you oh nobles for having oil, nice smelling
                And powder, nice smelling and vaseline, nice smelling
                And perfume, nice smelling and we will be leaving

And Julie’s family would thank them back.

                 Ma rie, ma rie, ma rie, mak lelei.

                Thanks, thanks, thanks, for the good songs dances.

After a few more personal exchanges and jokes, the Fara group went off to the next house on their itinerary, Robyn and I thanked Julie and the family for the wonderful entertainment, and went back to our linoleum slumber.
Or so we thought. In our dreams.
My eyes were beginning to wobble, and then I heard it, just once.


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