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Steep Slopes

Steep Slopes: Music and change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea OPEN ACCESS

KIRSTY GILLESPIE
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hcqd
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  • Book Info
    Steep Slopes
    Book Description:

    The Duna live in a physical environment of steep slopes that are sometimes difficult to traverse. A stick of bamboo used as a prop goes a long way in assisting a struggling traveller. Similarly, the Duna live in a social and cultural environment of steep slopes, where the path on which they walk can be precarious and unpredictable. Songs, like the stick of bamboo, assist the Duna in picking their way over this terrain by providing a forum for them to process change as it is experienced, in relation to what is already known. This book is a musical ethnography of the Duna people of Papua New Guinea. A people who have experienced extraordinary social change in recent history, their musical traditions have also radically changed during this time. New forms of music have been introduced, while ancestral traditions have been altered or even abandoned. This study shows how, through musical creativity, Duna people maintain a connection with their past, and their identity, whilst simultaneously embracing the challenges of the present.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-43-8
    Subjects: Music
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Table of Contents

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  1. This is the study of the musical practices of the Duna—a remote, rural community in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Inspired by the frequency and popularity of Western-style songs composed by the Duna people themselves, I began to research these compositions alongside the pre-contact genres that I had arrived in the region to study. Not long thereafter, I began to realise the similarities between this pre and post-contact music. This book aims to reveal those similarities, arguing for the existence of continuity in the Duna′s seemingly disparate musical practices.

    In this introductory chapter, I set out the aims...

  2. In this chapter, I aim to provide an overview of Duna ancestral musical practices and the vocabulary associated with them. As discussed in Chapter 1, the term awenene ipakana can be used to describe ancestral song forms (Kipu Piero, Personal communication, 30 March 2005), which would be expressed in Tok Pisin as ′tumbuna singsing′. Hapia ipakana (′songs from before′) is another way to identify the musical genres that belong to pre-contact times (Kenny Kendoli, Personal communication, 7 March 2007). This general category is distinct from khao ipakana or ′white songs′ that will be discussed in the next chapter.

    Due to...

  3. I open with a Christian song that is popular in the Duna community at Kopiago.¹ This song declares that ′laip senis′, meaning ′life change′ in Tok Pisin, keeps coming for boys and girls as a result of God′s word that comes down like rain, never drying up. ′Laip senis′ exists alongside such Tok Pisin terms as ′tanim bel′ (′turn the belly′, meaning to convert), used throughout the country by missions in their efforts to convert Papua New Guineans to a Christian way of life. Here, however, the term—and the song—takes on an even deeper resonance when one considers...

  4. In the early hours of Tuesday 15 February 2005, I awoke to darkness and the sounds of hysterical wailing. I said to Lila, my fieldwork companion, ′I think Wakili has died′. Hastily I dressed and ran out onto the veranda and put the outside light on. Jeremiah loomed in the darkness, and I could just make out the glint of the empty steel hospital bed he was holding. He confirmed my fears with one sentence, ′Yangpela meri i dai pinis′, and I let out a howl and covered my face with my hands. Together the three of us went down...

  5. 5. Land and song (pp. 123-156)

    Scholars working in all parts of Papua New Guinea have written of the extraordinary relationships in the country between people and their place. The Kaluli people sing of the landscape and their relationship to it, particularly in the genre of gisaro (Schieffelin 1976; Feld 1982, 1988, 1996). A number of publications address the effect of mining on Papua New Guinean peoples living in the Highlands region, taking into account the close relationships between people and the land in these areas (Rumsey and Weiner 2001, 2004; Stewart and Strathern 2002b, 2004; Halvaksz 2003; Jorgensen 2004). Many other works could be recalled...

  6. This chapter explores songs associated with obtaining or maintaining relationships with the opposite sex. As in the previous chapter, here the focus is on song texts and song function. I choose to label the songs featured in this chapter ′courting songs′ rather than ′love songs′. This is because I am writing of songs that have courting as their specific function. Stewart and Strathern also choose to use the terminology of ′courting′ over ′love′ and for more or less the same reason. They write:

    Courting songs may also be referred to as love songs but the term ′love songs′ begs the...

  7. The previous three chapters have been concerned with illuminating the continuity of theme, text and function between Duna songs of ancestral and foreign origin, or the endogenous and the exogenous. This chapter will be concerned first with the creative process itself, as it applies to Duna song creation. Both ancestral and introduced song styles display a similar approach to composition, in particular the recycling of melodic material in songs of the same genre, and this compositional process can be seen as another form of continuity. This in turn reveals continuity in what is regarded as a key element of Duna...

  8. 8. Conclusion (pp. 209-214)

    The Duna live in a physical environment of steep slopes (mei konenia) that are sometimes difficult to traverse. A stick of bamboo (sola) used as a prop goes a long way in assisting a struggling traveller. Similarly, the Duna live in a social and cultural environment of steep slopes, where the path on which they walk can be precarious and unpredictable. Songs, like the stick of bamboo, assist the Duna in picking their way over this terrain by providing a forum for them to process change as it is experienced, in relation to what is already known.

    The change that...