Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hafa Na Liberasion #8: I Kantan I Gera

Gi duranten I Tiempon Chapoñes giya Guahan, meggai na kanta siha manmafa’tinas nu i Chamoru siha. Considering the intense stress of the war and the fact that other than kantan gima’yu’us, Chamorro songs before the war were primarily Chamoritta, or improvisational songs made up at the top of one’s head to a familiar tune and then passed onto a rival or partner for the next verse. Given this context, songs and stories designed to give hope or release tension were constantly created.

Some were humorous and poked fun, not only at the Japanese, but also at Chamorros who collaborated with them. Other songs were harsh and angry, and ridiculed the Japanese and pined for an American return. All were in Chamorro, both because at the time Chamorro was the primary language or Guam, but also because anyone speaking English on Guam could be punished by the Japanese.

Most of these songs however were lost or not passed on, and the entire war period tends to be hegemonized or narrated through the elevation and immortalization of a single song, Sam, Sam, My Dead Uncle Sam Won’t You Please Come Back to Guam. A few other songs however have been recorded, but none of them are ever remembered or memorialized in the ways that the Uncle Sam song is. Below I’m pasting the lyrics to the Uncle Sam song as well as the lyrics to another song “Ilek-ña Si Sensei," which makes the same basic point as the Uncle Sam song, namely na ga’o-ñiha i Chamoru, i Amerikånu siha kinu I Chapoñes. Sigun i fino’-ña i kanta, Mantatanga todu i Chamoru esta ki matulaika i Kachap yan i Miso.

Most people reason or rationalize that the Uncle Sam song has been canonized or elevated to almost mythical status in telling this section of Chamorro history, because of how it best expresses feelings of Chamorro gratitude, devotion and love to the United States. There is some validity to this, but I would also like to suggest that the almost holy memorialization of the Uncle Sam song is not simply because it reflects the reality of Chamorro sentiments, but rather that the choosing of it by Chamorros, historians and otherwise as the song through which the war should be remembered, is itself an act of entangling Chamorros in the framework of eternal debt and dependency.

In describing Chamorro reactions to the return of the Americans in 1944, Chamorro scholar Laura Souder notes that, “In deeply felt acts of Chamorro reciprocity, our people extended the most valuable of their possessions, albeit the only possessions they had to give- land and their very spirits, to Uncle Sam.” The elevation of the Uncle Sam song is another such instance, however here it is not the land of Chamorros or even just their spirits that they offered up to the United States, but rather their very language. The thing after all which distinguishes the Uncle Sam song from nearly all other songs created by Chamorros during the war, is that it is the only one in English!

I lenguahin-ñiha, ma ofresi i Amerikånu siha, kontodu i tano’-ñiha, i antin-ñiha put i dongkolo’ na dibi na ma siesieñte. Ekungok nu i eriyå-mu på’go ya siña un hungok i hiniyong. Mamamåtkilu i bes i taotao Chamoru. Manachamalingu todu, ni' manmana'i despues di i gera, ya achokka' ta tungo' hafa debi di ta cho'gue, tribiha ta chule' tatte' hafa mismo iyo-ta.

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UNCLE SAM PLEASE COME BACK TO GUAM

Uncle Sam, I’m sad and lonely
Uncle Sam, come back to me
Uncle Sam, I love you only
Oh, please come back and set me free

Early Monday morning
The action came to Guam
Eighth of December
Nineteen forty-one

Oh Mr. Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam
Won’t you please come back to Guam?

Our lives are in danger
You better come
And kill all the Japanese
Right here on Guam

Oh Mr. Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam
Won’t you please come back to Guam?

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ILEK-NA SI SENSEI

Ilek-ña Si Sensei
Na Guiya Yu’us-måmi
Lao mandagi Si Sensei
Sa’ batchigo’
Dami Danaika
Siempre u matulaika
I misu yan i kachup
Put i pan yan matikiya
Ga’ña-ku i Amerikånu
Ki Chapanes

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