Documentary filmmaker, Elizeth Labega (YouTube: “Tambú: Music and Dance of Curaçao”) explores the ‘forbidden’ nature of our indigenous music and dance. Imported from West Africa in the 1600s, Tambú music is made with a single skinned drum, a metal percussion instrument (usually a hoe or spade), lots of clapping hands, a soulful male or female singer leads with dramatic – often thoughtful – lyrics varying in topic from politics to gossip to social / racial tension. But lyrics are always in Papiamentu.
Tambú dance (rolling, swaying, gyrating hips and shuffling, stamping feet) as described by Dutch journalist / author Jan Brokken, “though man and woman don’t touch each other during [Tambú dance], they move more provocatively than a Dutch couple making love.” Both Tambú music and dance were considered inappropriate – at times dangerous – and even illegal before 1954 – by the Catholic church and government. Tambú gatherings were perceived as being hotbeds for revolt.
Truth is Tambú is the music of ‘oppression’ reverberating through our bodies and soul… It’s our main form of emotional expression, it breathes through our culture, and creates our identity. Restricting Tambú is almost as bad as silencing our beloved Papiamentu!