Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Dance of Life

Sunday 27th August 1995

I awoke to the gentle sound of a flute.  The simple melody was repeated in variation.  I could discern the movement of the sound’s author as he circled the encampment.  The sun was up and shining on the rear wall of my tent, the direction from which the call of reveille came.

I was not accustomed to early rising, and snuggled back deeply into the warmth of my sleeping bag.  As I dipped in and out of my receding slumber I became aware of movement behind me.  Muttered morning greetings, throat clearing coughs and the shuffling noises of people gathering for the first Dance of Life.

A man’s voice had begun speaking, just a little too quiet and distant for me to clearly make out what was being said.  The voice had a calm and soothing rhythmic quality, and I began to drift back to the security of unconsciousness.

“Ama tikki wo-oo, a-ne-o-he, o-oh sha-anna, he-a-na, he-a-no, he-iyaa.”

I was returned to the world of awareness by the chanting of those who had gathered to dance with Ivan.  The texture and cadences were clearly derived from the native American tradition, but also evoked something deep within that I could not put a name to.  A feeling of longing akin to that which the djembe awoke, but with a higher resonance as if it were reaching for the limitless sky or seeking to view beyond the horizon.

The chant was repeated, then segued into a new line.

“O-oh hey-a-no, ha-a-i-ya!” slowly rolling around with a feeling of memory and hope, rising sharply in intensity and volume at the end as if all this energy were being encapsulated and then thrown out to the world.

“O-oh hey-a-na, hey-a-no, he-ey-iyaaa”  The final vowel sound was sustained and then softly faded like the autumn; after a moment’s pause the entire chant was repeated.  Four times in all the chant was made as I lay in my den absorbing its subtle vibration, wondering what movements might be accompanying this wonderful song, and resolving that I should endeavour to join this in future days.

Just as I thought the gathering around the altar in the centre of the field was over, there was a sudden roar of a shout from those assembled.  This was followed by laughing and mirthful voices blending into a chatter which slowly faded away as the group dispersed.

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