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The notion of ìplayî
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The Evenk verbs evi- and ike, ìto playî express the actions of singing, dancing, shamanizing, performing a ritual, celebrating something, performing, playing an instrument, playing games, and decorating an object. They occur frequently in song lyrics, in which Evenk repeat time and again ìIf we want to live well, we must playî. For them all songs and dances are rituals.
The shamanís ìgamesî. Today these consist essentially of singing. Every shaman has his own tunes and his own rhythms and a complete monopoly on the words. No one, except for a few old people, understands what he is saying when he deals with the spirits. These songs, which are not supposed to be sung at night and not to be misused, are full of hope and optimism. They are hymns to life (or survival), confirming its continuation and its victory over death, according to the principle ìto say is to doî, which underlies all ritual action. Reference is made to the kin group, then to the members of the village and finally to all Evenk as a whole. Other topics are ecology, cultural identity, preservation of the people and their savoir-vivre, the childrenís schooling, luck in hunting, survival of the reindeer, the beauty of nature. Evocation of the river as a mother always goes with the passages on kinship. Sometimes singers describe those close to them as ìbadî, a conventional way of deflecting the spiritsí attention from them. The songs of the old people gratefully mention cameras and tape recorders: ìEven if I die, you will hear me sing.î

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2003-09-09 - Date modified: 2004-04-14

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Song for my grand-mother (0MB)
A grand-father sings. (0MB)

Reindeer's game...

...Children's game

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