This week I had the pleasure of seeing Ego Lemos – currently Timor’s most famous singer songwriter – who is in the UK promoting his new album and playing a couple of shows. Unfortunately, many dates were canceled due to the unexpected illness of his touring partner Geoffrey Gurrumul.
Ego dropped into my place of work – a development agency where his ties as a permaculture activist go way back. I hope he does not mind me sharing that he talked at length about what he sees as his dual role as permaculture/community development advocate and songwriter/musician. He strongly believes that they two are not only compatible, but mutually reinforcing.
He told us about as a songwriter, he “hears” things, and is particularly sensitive to what people say and how they live. His work as a permaculture worker takes him to places where he hears about aspects of rural life.
One amazing example of his keen perception as a songwriter was the song “Ita ida deit” which he wrote in 2004, sadly anticipating the events that swept up Timor in 2006.
The interview below is a really worthwhile introduction to Ego.
He is in the UK at the same time as Galaxy, the reggae/rock/etc band from Lospalos, is debuting in Europe.
They just arrived in Portugal to play at the Sines Music Festival. Portuguese NGO Moving Cause has more on their blog about the trip. Galaxy represents a generation that came of age towards the end of the Indonesian occupation. While off towards the tip of the island in Lospalos, seemingly far from global influences, they created their own brand of sensitive yet critical, tongue-in-cheek music mixing numerous influences and languages.
I have issues with the category “world music” because a band like Galaxy is actually not concerned with cultivating some folkloric image of East Timor for the rest of the world’s consumption. In fact they are busy just creating, playing (I mean halimar – in the creative sense) and making music that makes sense to them and (tens of) thousands of disaffected Timorese youth. Like Ego, they promote national unity, for example through this song – which has over 4,000 views.
I’ll be going to Sines, and no doubt seeing Galaxy there will motivate me to write more!