DER Documentary

Namekas: Music in Lake Chambri



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by Les McLaren
color, 53 min, 1979




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On the southern shores of Lake Chambri (Middle Sepik River) live 1500 Pondo-speaking villagers. The Chambris trade fish, mosquito nets and baskets for sago, pottery, and other goods. All elements of the natural world are associated with spirits which have individual personalities and powers, characterized in legend, art, and music. A constant dialog between man and spirits is carried on through various communicative media, including invocations, dreams, and music. As this film beautifully reveals, there is a wealth of musical tradition in Lake Chambri: carved wooden drums whose lively vibrations are said to shake loose ripened fruits for harvest; pairs of sacred bamboo flutes used in boys' initiations and concealed from women; orchestras of flutes identified with dogs or turkeys; flutes captured in warfare used with dance masks to invoke fish; and the panpipe with its melodies of mourning.

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