Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kantan Guinaiya

This year for the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru or Chamorro Language Competition we tried out a new category, Kantan Chamorrita. This style is something unfamiliar to most on Guam today, but was an integral, constant and always oppan part of Chamorro life before the war and even for a few years afterwards. Kantan Chamorrita or Chamorrita refers to a style of social improvisational singing. A verse is started with a familiar tune, and another takes up the song by adding on a verse of their own. Each verse is supposed to be four lines. The tune is simple and doesn't move to fast, but each singer is expected to rhyme the last part of the 2nd and 4th line.

In the days before radio was commonplace and stereos, walkmans or iPods existed, this was how people filled the gaps in the air and in time. Singing familiar songs, but making up your own songs with others was something you did while fishing, weaving, farming, partying and so on. But as audio distractions and diversions became easier to obtain through purchases and as the Chamorro language begin to decline in use and Chamorros became as a whole less fluent, this form began to disappear as well. Today, Kantan Chamoritta doesn't exist much as a living art, but instead has been documented by different historians and anthropologists. We have verses that were written down and so we can reminisce about the time that this was a living, breathing part of Chamorro culture. But bringing it back won't be accomplished until the Chamorro language is in a healthier state.

Only two schools participated in this category because of the difficulty that it entailed. One team from the CNMI created an interesting routine, where instead of singing about the usual Chamoritta topic (guinaiya), they instead shared a song about the need to keep the Chamorro language and culture alive. The other participating team was from Guam and didn't adhere to the Chamoritta style but instead had a male and female split up the lyrics to Johnny Sablan's famous song Nobia Nene. 

 I am hoping that in future competitions students and teachers take the opportunity to try to revive this lyrical art. I've pasted below the translated lyrics from a Chamoritta tune recorded in the early 20th century in Saipan. 

The dove approaches flying
And sits down at the window
And asks the brother
How the sweetheart is.

O see the beautiful flower
Which blooms at that window
It is better to break it
As it is too ripe for plucking.

When I kiss your cheek
You say, no what a man
And when you come out of the bath

I have only one heart,
But I gave it to my beloved
And she left me without my heart
Alone in my pain.

But I kiss you when I please
With the tip of my nose
I kiss you glowingly
Until I lose my senses.

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