Subject: GLW: Celebrating the joy of homecoming

Celebrating the joy of homecoming


Ita Nian Rasik (Our Own): Songs of East Timor — past, present, future Teodozio Batista Ximenes

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Like many who have experienced exile, young musician Teodozio Batista Ximenes sings of longing for his homeland and laments the loss of family members, friends and his cultural heritage as a result of war. But he also sings of the joy of liberation and the opportunity of rebuilding the country of his birth, East Timor.

Ximenes released his debut album, Ita Nian Rasik (Our Own), in April. The CD was part of his music studies at the Australian Catholic University in the regional Victorian town Ballarat.

He was one of several Timorese who entered the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta in 1995 to seek asylum. Ximenes lived in Portugal briefly, before moving to Australia in 1998. True to his commitment to rebuild his homeland, as he explains in the title track of the CD, Ximenes returned to East Timor on May 5 to work as a teacher. The CD is also an attempt to raise money to purchase teaching materials.

Ximenes’ experiences in exile have exposed him to a range of influences, from Portuguese music to that played by African-American musicians who wrote and sang of slavery. Indonesian musicians “singing about civil rights” are also among his influences.

Ximenes’ voice soars, whilst singing sweetly of East Timor’s beauty and paying tribute to its fallen heroes. He is accompanied by fellow Timorese students in Australia, Salvador Pires and Decio Ribeiro, as well as Melbourne musician Nicole De Marchi, on guitars, drums and violin. The CD was produced locally at Ballarat’s Redwood Studios with the assistance of musician and lecturer, Roger Hillman.

According to Ximenes, “What inspired me to produce this album was the recent events in East Timorese history, which have created massive changes in the lives of the East Timorese people”. He said that the colonial legacy of poor education has kept the Timorese ignorant of the impact of colonialism on their society. “I really want the people to be aware of our real roots, history and identity and the massive cultural genocide caused by colonialism.”

Ximenes pointed to Australian ambitions towards East Timor’s natural resources in the Timor Sea as evidence of the continuing colonialism that East Timor is fighting against. He believes that music can raise awareness and provide ways for the Timorese to make sense of their history and culture.

Commenting on his return to East Timor, Ximenes conceded he was nervous about returning after a 10-year absence. But he told Green Left Weekly: “I also have hope and confidence that I will like it there.” He hopes to continue his work reviving and documenting “East Timor’s beautiful stories” by becoming a music teacher and continuing his work as an artist. However, he lamented the lack of musical instruments and facilities in East Timor, which creates difficulties for young aspiring musicians.

Ita Nian Rasik is a quietly beautiful and inspiring debut from this young, hard-working musician and it deserves to be heard more widely. It represents a part of the post-liberation cultural work that is going on, inside and outside of East Timor.

From Green Left Weekly, July 21, 2004. Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

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