The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

sound recording - "Inde-Nagaland : Chant des tribus Sema et Zeliang"

caption: Sema men's ceremonial dance, "aphilo kuwo"
medium: sound
keywords: feast of merit
ethnicgroup: Sema
date: 1985
person: Maison du Culture du Monde, Paris
text: The dance begins with a vocal melody, wordless but structured around onomatopoeic sounds and cries, either to celebrate the victory of the whole tribe or one of its members over the enemy, or in honour of a rich man of the community who is offering a feast of merit. The dance opens the celebrations outside the man's house, and starts off the Tulim festival at which the Sema gather each year.
text: With loud cries, a line of warriors steps forward. The first leaves the group and leaps very high, brandishing his spear. The others follow, rhythmically stamping the ground with heel and sole of the foot. They cross their legs with agility and speed. All the men wear on the heads a circlet of bear's fur in which are fixed three hornbill feathers. An apron lined with cowries flaps against their thighs. The more complicated the pattern of sewn cowrie shells, the more heads does the clan count among its trophies of the ancestors.
text: As the song is danced, comprising both muscular control and spontaneity, there also appear cries, movements and sounds mimicking the scratching of animals' hooves. The line winds and then unwinds in a spiral (a sign of fertility), many times over. A great energy disseminates from the song as from the dance.
text: Three men alternately sing the drone, while the others produce a sort of simple ornamentation through a regular throbbing effect of their voices joined together.