Sunday, 7 September 2014

Village Soundtrack

To follow on from my post about the challenges of recording songs in a village situation, I’d like to paint for you a word picture of the aural scenery of a village.

The most ubiquitous sound is the rooster. Although children’s books may have the rooster welcoming the dawn, they are much more vocal than this. They crow all day and start up again well before dawn, when I still consider it to be night. When one rooster crows, the next one responds, then the next, then the next…down the length of the village and back again. If a rooster is disturbed during his nightly rest, he will set off the crow-chain so that all in the village have their rest equally disturbed.

Mother hens are a different poultry sound track. They cluck along like a homing beacon, keeping their chicks in range. The chicks cheep back, a panicked note setting in when they cannot see their mother. Do not get between a mother hen and her chicks, else you’ll also hear the sound of flapping wings as they attack you to defend their young.

Children are another village sound. Babies crying, children playing, parents calling out. The chatter and giggle of their observations to each other about the strange white people. The snippets of English they’ve picked up, such as being greeted with ‘Morning!’ in the afternoon. I probably sound equally out of place to them when  I attempt to reply with the correct local greeting.

Frog o’clock happens in both the morning and the evening. This is when the frog chorus starts, as one, on some secret signal. Sometimes their croaks get into rhythm with each other and a strange beat pulses in the air.
Then there are the village bells, which are usually made of old gas cylinders of some sort. They hang from churches and schools where they are beaten with enthusiasm with a stick of some sort. What they lack in tunefulness they make up for in volume.

Church will often have three separate bell ringings before the service starts. The basic principle is that the first bell is a reminder to start getting ready for church. The second bell is time to start walking to church and the third bell is that the service is actually starting. In at least one village, the bells set all the dogs howling, so church was announced by a bell and a canine choir.

The most unexpected bell ring for me was at 9pm. I nearly jumped out of bed, ready for an emergency! Instead, it was the bedtime bell on a school night. Within ten minutes, the village generator had been turned off and except for crickets, the village was quiet.

Generators in villages increase sound in every possible way, for not only are they noisy themselves, but they power other noise generating items. Loud music, from recordings or amateur guitarists have kept me awake late, as has the local evangelist with a message to declare. The State of Origin is a whole separate thing I try to keep well clear of.

Traditional items, such as a conch or a garamut (hollow log drum) are still used in some villages. In one place, the garamut leant up against one of the poles of the house where I slept. This meant that I was woken not only by the noise of the drum, but by the sensation of the entire house shaking beneath me.

If a village has motorised transport, people soon learn to identify every vehicle by its sound. The brand, horsepower and owner of a dinghy are known by the sound on a river village, while the cars and trucks are known on a road village. Planes belonging to different companies are known by their sound… although I can only tell you if it is one of our planes (a Kodiak) or not.

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