Sunday, September 28, 2014

I’ll Fly Away (Tales from a Rooster Chaser)

Chickens trying to get out of the by Robbie Petterson
He crept up from behind the water tank, his neck craning around the corner. Careful. Cautious. This was how the game was played. He glanced at his finery, and for a moment, wished he was a little more plainly dressed.  But impressing females and being sneaky were two different wardrobes, and he had been busy all morning courting a special someone. No matter. This was his turf, and no one had a right to challenge him on it. He could go where he wanted, when he wanted, and anyone who thought otherwise would receive a beating or a slash from his blades. He straightened. Everyone knew he was king here. One step, then the other. No sign of the intruder...

Music started up from the market, and a few more children snuck to the outside benches to listen. How dare they! Without asking him? He threw his head back, ready to challenge their presence...

When suddenly, from behind the bushes, I leapt out in front of the rooster, waving my arms like a silent banshee as the bird sprang into the air, feathers flying. Around the water tank I chased him, past the sleeping cats and the squawking hens. Over the logs, through the mud, we ran until the rooster was safely in the jungle at the back of his house and silence reigned over that part of the village.

Until the next 50 roosters came stalking over...

You never imagined that rooster chasing would be on a translator's resume, but when my teammate, Rebekah, began working with the local youth of Maipenairu to record songs written in their language of I’ai during our three week travels around Gulf Province, I found myself employed in shooing the noisy flock away from the precious singers and the sensitive recording equipment. I’ll Fly Away suddenly had a whole new meaning...

The youth were very excited and in some places had been practicing
 for hours so the recordings could be perfect.
Throughout our three-week trip in Gulf Province, Rebekah recorded 34 translated worship songs in two different language groups. Some were translations of songs in English or Tok Pisin, but many were original compositions by these talented musicians.

The Kope singers were tireless, not wanting to stop for breaks! photo by Hanna Schulz
 By recording songs and writing down transcriptions, we were not only able to preserve these marvelous snapshots of culture, but it was also a process of encouraging local musicians, validating their use of the local language, and--since Rebekah left burned CDs and SD cards behind--helping spread the message of God’s truth that was so eagerly sung by these choirs.

 Undisturbed, I might add, by nary a crowing rooster.

photo by Hanna Schulz