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Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam

Naemanson 06 Dec 10 - 08:01 PM
Naemanson 07 Dec 10 - 02:48 AM
katlaughing 07 Dec 10 - 11:28 PM
Charley Noble 08 Dec 10 - 08:13 AM
Naemanson 08 Dec 10 - 09:17 PM
katlaughing 08 Dec 10 - 10:24 PM
Naemanson 14 Dec 10 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,joaquin flores borja 07 May 13 - 11:31 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: Naemanson
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 08:01 PM

Last night I heard for the first time a Kantan Chamorrita, one of the indigenous musical forms from Guam. I even got to sing along on a modern version. The article on the form follows. With luck I'll get permission from the author to include the modern version we sang last night.



My mother often tells me stories about what life was like on the island of Guam when she was young. One story involves the way the community would create the Kántan Chamorrita, a verse form that the indigenous people ofGuam, called Chamorros, have passed down in their folk literature for generations. Chamorros have the reputation for being fan-loving, hospitable people with a penchant for teasing, mimicry, and buffoonery. Their passion for jest and playfulness manifests itself in this verse form, as it does in all of their folk art.

Before World War II, fishing was an integral part of Chamorro life. During the seasonal fish runs, whole neighborhoods would work together in communal net-fishing expeditions to catch maniahac, tiao, or other small fish. My mother recalls that the beach front from Hagatna, the main town, all the way to Tohmum, now an enclave for tourists, would be lined with groups of people. Some would be laying or pulling in the nets laden with small fish. The women would often remain on the shore, preparing titiyas and atuli, to be eaten with the freshly salted fish after the catch was divided up and distributed to everyone. Children would be playing in the sand quietly, knowing they would get scolded for making noise and scaring the fish away.

On these occasions, after everyone had settled down, satisfied with an abundant catch and a full stomach, someone would start the Kantan Chamorrita. For miles up and down the shoreline, the calls and responses of the lead singers would be heard. Sometimes a neighborhood group would respond. Sometimes women in the group would band together to try to outsmart the men through their verse innovations. Rhyming phrases would be thrown back and forth, sometimes for hours, with different people joining in and calling out challenges or responding to the rhyming of others.

For me, this scene captures the essence of this cultural tradition. Through it, one can begin to appreciate the functions of the Kantan Chamornta in Chamorro culture, and to appreciate the Chamorro culture itself. In its classical form, the Kantan Chamornta is a four-line poetic verse sung to the tune of a single melody, with slight regional variations. Typically, the second and fourth lines rhyme. The verses are made up spontaneously, as they are sung, and may express a wide range of emotions and experiences. The Chamorro relationship with nature, cultural practices, sexual innuendoes, historical experiences, values, and customs are all communicated through poetic metaphors, which Kantan Chamorrita sing- ers, who are also skilled Chamorro speakers, have mastered.

The Kantan Chamorrita is always sung by two or more people in a call-and-response fashion. The initiator of the chant sings a verse, challenging someone else to respond. The person responding refers to the previous verse and challenges the initiator to respond. Often the competition results in groups taking the side of their favorite singer. These supporters will frequently harmonize with that singer or assist him or her by throwing in rhyming phrases. The supporters may also throw in familiar metaphors in anticipation of what the lead singer might use. Rhyming lines that have gained popularity throughout the years are used by most Kantan Chamorrita singers. Some verses, especially those related to courtship and romance, have been learned by every- one and are often combined with newly invented ones. As excitement builds, singers will make gestures and facial expressions to emphasize the emotions being conveyed in their verses.

Before radio, and later television, became widely available on Guam in the fifties and sixties, the Kantan Chamorrita was a very popular form of entertainment for people gathered together. Traditional communal work activities—such as roof thatching, net fishing, weaving, grinding corn, husking rice, and washing clothes by the river— provided the cultural settings, and the long hours of these group activities were lightened by singing the Kantan Chamorrita. Family celebrations, such as weddings, baptisms, and fiestas, also brought relatives and neighbors together, and Kantan Chamorrita singing was always a part ofthese activities as well. In addition, the Kantan Chamorrita was an acceptable vehicle for expressing sentiments when courting. Clearly, the Kantan Chamorrita served, and continues to serve, a vital social funct ion. It brings people together, encourages cooperation, allows for friendly competit ion, and forms the basis for spontaneous and humorous interaction. The Kantan Chamorrita has also served the function of expressing, in a culturally acceptable way, thoughts that otherwise would have been difficult or sensitive. For example, lovers were able, through the verses, to express feelings to each other that were prohibited by the culture from being communicated directly. Neighbors and relatives were able to air grievances and resolve misunderstandings through confrontational lyrics. And the Chamorros' most popular usage of the Kantan Chamorrita has always been to tease and ridicule one another without causing shame or embarrassment to anyone. While the tune to which the poetic lines are sung has remained the same—with only slight modifications—for as long as can be remembered, the metaphors in the Kantan Chamorrita verses have changed with the experiences of the people. The following are a few examples.
Ti gumadi yu' put ti'ao         I'm not fishing for small fish
Na gumadi yu' put hagu                I'm casting my net for you
Yan hu chetchit hao tres biahi        When I whistle three times
Yute' gadi ya-un falagu.        Throw your net and run.
Malagu yu' hu tungo               I would like to know
Manu gaigi i piniti-mu               Where you hurt
Kao i tronkon korason-mu        Is it from the trunk of your heart
Pat i puntan babali-mu.               Or from the end of your eyelashes.
Antes gi annai tiempo-mu            A while ago when it was your time
Kalan makina hao ni' bibu            You were like a fast machine
Annai esta ti tiempo-mu                    Now that time is no longer yours
Kalan puyitos manok hao ni' figo.   You are like a shivering chick.
Bai hu na'i hao tenguang-mu         I will give you a Care package
Maseha tres kattuehun chiku         Maybe even three rolls of kisses
Lao adahi na unbaba                  But be careful not to open it
Esta ki matto hao San Francisco. Until you arrive in San Francisco.
Basta nana de tumanges                  Stop crying, my mother
Saosao todi u lago'-mu                  Wipe away your tears
Sa' ti u apmam na tiempo         Because it won't be long
Siempre u fatto i lahi-mu.         Before your son will return.

Today, the Kantan Chamorrita is sung almost exclusively by Chamorro men and women over fifty years old. While the art form has not disappeared entirely, its continuity is threatened because younger Chamorros have not carried on the tradition. There are master singers of the Kantan Chamornta in each of the twenty-three villages on Guam, but with fewer than fifty master singers island-wide, the chant's survival has become of increasing concern to those who appreciate its cultural significance. That significance is based on the chant's many insights into the Chamorro woridview, plus numerous expressions and metaphors that are no longer used in contemporary Cham orro oral expression. In 1987 the Guam Council of the Arts and Humanities, the Chamorro Studies Prog ram of the Department of Education, and several faculty and students from the University of Guam made a concerted effort to revitalize the Kantan Chamorrita.

Through a grant from the Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, Kantan Chamorrita masters are being paid for time spent teaching and sharing their knowledge with apprentices in traditional home settings. Special performances are held throughout the island to rekindle community interest.

Teachers are now beginning to record and teach their students the basics of Kantan Chamorrita singing. Chamorro-language instructors are becoming aware of the potential of this medium for language instruction. Senior citizen centers located in the villages are encouraging elders to sing the Kantan Chamorrita. Guam's participation in the 1988 South Pacific Festival of the Arts in Townsville, Australia, and in the 1992 festival in the Cook Islands has provided an opportunity to showcase Kantan Chamorrita singers before Pacific-wide audiences - While these efforts represent a modest start, there is hope that this poetic tradition will rise in popularity as a means of cultural expression. With continued community interest and support, the revitalization of the Kantan Chamorrita can be of tremendous value to the preservation and development of Chamorro language and culture.

Note: I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the following individuals, who have worked to revitalize the Kantan Chamorrita—the late Dr. Kim Bailey, Carmen Garrido Iglesias, Judy Flores, Clotilde and the late Ed Gould, and especially the master singers Tan Diding (Lourdes Taitague), Tan Angie (Angelina Anderson), Tan Marcie (Marcella Aguon), and Tun Ben (Vicente Meno).

Souder, Laura. "Kantan Chamorrita: Traditional Chamorro Poetry, Past and Future." Moana: A Pacific Journal of International Writing. 5.1 (1993): 189-192. Print.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: Naemanson
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 02:48 AM

I got permission. Dr. Flores is my literature professor.

Kantan Chamorrita Song
Evelyn Flores, Guam

Man        Oh my lover, you're enchanting
        Like the moonbeams on a cool sea
        To you I will fore'er be faithful
        No other in the world can please me.
Woman        Faithful, faithful, you as lover
        Truth in those words never, never
        For today, perhaps an hour,
        A pretty face appears, it's over.
Man        What, my love, do you mistrust me?
        How can I convince you further?
        Like the ocean in its raging
        Who would dare to rule your water?
Woman        Can you hear the rooster crowing,
        This is why I cannot trust him
        Smooth as oil but weak in loving
        Chasing women at his whim.
Man        Is this indeed your cruel decision
        See, my friends, her quick rejection.
        When you're old and think about us
        You'll regret this loss of passion.
Woman        What is passion but a flower
        Lives for just a single hour
        Give me rock that's strong, abiding
        That kind of man will light my fire
Woman        Plain of face and not as shapely
        But his heart will never wander
        His devotion like the stars above us
        His love for me will last forever
Man        There's no man like that who lives
        Except perhaps in your desire
        Best take I say what real life offers
        Or risk the loss of all love's fire
Woman        Just as the ant can think no larger
        Than his anthill and its larder
        So you can't conceive this true lover
        Whose faithfulness will rouse my ardour.
Woman        Adios fair weather lover
        To say your heart breaks, please don't bother
        Go chase the girl whose love is smaller
        You will, I'm sure, deserve each other.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 11:28 PM

Great stuff, Brett! Please tell your professor thank you. Rog and I enjoyed my reading this out loud, very much. Are there any recordings we might hear?

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Dec 10 - 08:13 AM

Excellent work, Brett!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: Naemanson
Date: 08 Dec 10 - 09:17 PM

On Monday I will take a recorder to class and we will record the singing of the Chamorrita.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Dec 10 - 10:24 PM

Wonderful, Brett!! I really look forward to hearing it.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: Naemanson
Date: 14 Dec 10 - 07:53 AM

Oh, and I took my recorder to class on Monday to record the Chamorrita and then we didn't do it. I gotta get that recorded.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Kantan Chamorrita - Music from Guam
From: GUEST,joaquin flores borja
Date: 07 May 13 - 11:31 PM




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