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Thursday 10 March 2011

BanBat Soldiers Gala

It is almost time for BanBat5 to go home and make way for BanBat6. In order to celebrate this, everybody was invited to a cultural event and dinner. Entertainment by both BanBat troopers and a group from Yei Teachers Training College, who showed off traditional song and dance from the Yei area. Very enjoyable, and very tasty.
Just in case we had forgotten why we were asked to attend, a big sign next to the stage let us know that this was the Soldiers Gala Night.
The Master of Ceremony welcomed us all and told us of the nights entertainment.
This was introduced as "Bangladeshi choral song"; perhaps not the description I would have picked, but as enjoyable as always. I just wish I could understand a single word they were singing...
The students of Yei Teachers Training College starting their part of the proceedings with a native song... it must be a native song, as it is sung by natives. I don't think the original lyrics in in English though.
It's not a bunad per see, but it's a traditional costume none the less. The YTTC leaving stage in preparation for their second act.
Setting up the instruments for the dance number.
Setting up the drums were a source of much muted discussion.. which of the big drums go on the right hand side?
Quality assurance inspection... apparently everything was in order at this point.
Drummers take the stage, while...
...the dancers waits in the wings.
And start... Dancers moved in, and assumed their places.
Well, eventually took their places. One never does things in a hurry while in sub-tropical Africa, a lesson I myself was quick to learn.
The dancers lined up in three rows: the first line in the straw shirts, performing the part of the dance that conveys the message. Second line of supporting dancers between the first line and the drummers, and the third line of dancing flute players behind the drummers.
The lady on the right is their teacher, or so I was told by the BanBat commander.
As far as I can tell this part of the dance is supposed to show the people watching the marvelous properties and skills of the dancer... did I mention that this dance traditionally was used as a way for girls and boys to meet?
The teacher acting much like the caller at a line dance, calling out the moves.
Much jumping and making sure your top don't fall down...
It's clear that absolute synchronization is not strive for.. but that is part of what makes it authentic.
Timed jumps with legs scissoring... and remember I mentioned making sure your top didn't fall down?
Back to the first moves of the dance again.
To me it almost looks like this move resembles making bread or patties of some kind...
Back up on their feet again.
Jump around!
At least everyone on stage was having a good time - the odd misstep and failing rhythm didn't do much to put a damper on things.

My apologies for the abrupt end of this video - I was 'voluntered' to come up and dance.
The rest of the dance after I had managed to politely extract myself.
If I was to hazard a guess as to the meaning and purpose of this dance: The girls in the straw skirt probably was - traditionally - the girls that were of a marryable age. The first part is where the girls shows off their skills and abilities. The second part is where they invite the guys they have an eye on to dance, allowing the guys to display his interest in return.
In short; nothing more or less than what goes on in bars and discotheques around the western world, just more traditional and probably with a few more taboos and rituals.
The BanBat Commander held a nice little speech, thanking everyone he had meet in Yei and getting slightly sentimental. Not that it's anything wrong with missing your friends, even if you're going back to your family.
Wrapping up his little speech and directing us to the food laden table... making sure I got first in line.
I'll be sad to see these guys go, since their hospitality and friendship have done so much to make my life in Yei so pleasurable. But there is every chance that BanBat6 is just as nice people - I've yet to meet a Bangladeshi in South Sudan I haven't liked.
Joy Bangla!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that was incredible! :D I've had a fondness for "African" music ever since I saw the film version of The Power of One and heard the amazing soundtrack. I say "African" because I cannot tell you which language the songs were in and would not care to insult any tribe by saying the incorrect name. It's incredible when you have a group of them singing. :)