We are all indigenous
My father used to say “we are all only a generation
away from starvation and poverty”. That used to make a lot of Irish
people very cross - even then. God knows how they would react now, even
with some more generations’ distance. However, I digress…
Had one suggested a few years ago, that the Irish as the indigenous people of Ireland would be the minority in time to come, the hoots of laughter would have been heard from Cork to Donegal. Now such a suggestion would bring on wails.
So, is it too much to ask that the same people in
Ireland and throughout the EU would reflect for a moment on the fate of
the world’s indigenous people? Specifically, the indigenous people of
the North with whom Ensemble XXI is working today. Archaeologists and
historians alike are constantly bemoaning the lack of funding for
archaeological digs and research into the lives, history and artefacts of
our ancestors. Trust me, these people are lucky. Of course I am not saying
that they should not be supported. They should be. However, what would you
say if you knew that nothing was being done to protect the most exquisite
Etruscan art, the Acropolis in Athens or indeed the Pyramids from a
predicted earthquake, landslide, flood or any other calamity? You would
cry. “Outrage!” “Madness!” “Barbarism!” And you would be
right. Only, that is exactly what is happening to the earliest music known
to man. The kind of music that is as exquisite as the most beautiful piece
of Art that you have ever seen. As I write the generations of indigenous
people in the Arctic are dying out – daily -creating a tomb of treasures
that can never be opened and revealed in an archaeological dig.
So, it is with great pride that I speak of the work of Ensemble XXI’s concertmaster, Finnish violinist Pia Siirala, who is meticulously collecting, not as a scholar, but as a musician, these ancient treasures before it is too late. Please read her extraordinary diary and audiovisual material on You Tube here from her last voyage to Sakhalin and its indigenous people – the Nivkhs. Before she had completed the compositions that were inspired by two of the Nivkh people’s legendary singers, they had died. So time is of the essence as we explore the music of the Arctic and sub Arctic nations.
Now I write on the eve of her next great adventure – a month long journey to the indigenous peoples of Kamchatka – the Koryaks and the Itel’mens. The next diary will no doubt shed more light on these extraordinary cultures as Pia moves amongst the indigenous people and notates or records their music. Watch this space for updates on that voyage! And remember, that tomorrow any of us, whatever our nationality, could be the next dying nation of Nivkhs, Koryaks, Unangans or Nenets. Spare a thought for them and keep Pia in your thoughts as she sets off from a warmish Moscow to Kamchatka and the frozen north on a truly historical and courageous quest.