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S I X “Rise Up, Gather Like Storm Clouds” Poetics of Gurna Song (Siŋ Gurna) In the preceding chapter, I suggested that there is not simply one gurna song; rather, there are, in a manner of speaking, three. Each guise of the song is vested with certain priorities and meanings. First, the gurna song takes on an appearance of unity and communitas when dancers perform it publicly. In this guise, the song “holds up” the dance, providing coherence to hundreds of dancers moving en masse and the spectators who take in the scene. In its second guise, the song is launched as a textual object by specialized composers. In the gurna network, the song acts as a symbolic marker of the composer’s popularity and the politics of affiliation as camps select their song for the year. As an object of learning for individual gurna members in their camps, the song text provides a basis for shared knowledge and the building of group competence. However, outside of the gurna society, the song takes on a third guise as it seeps into the surrounding community. The non-gurna majority can never know the song in its entirety—it is too long and complex; however, they absorb the important news within it. In this broad view, the song disintegrates into morsels of scandal as clever verses from the songs circulate through the neighborhood. Understanding the song in this fashion —as having three guises, depending on audience and context—affects how one might understand the poetics of the song. When I first attended gurna dances, I was barely aware that the deep groaning of the dancers was, in fact, a performance of oral poetry. Only much later, after having transcribed and translated gurna song for many months, did I became fascinated by the multifaceted nature of the text. I was struck by the many functions of the song, even if its lyrics were mostly incomprehensible during the dance performance. It contained phrases to win dancers, rouse enthusiasm for the gurna, elicit laughter, embarrass fools, wreak revenge, confer honor and appreciation, moralize, and socialize. This chapter describes the rhetorical building blocks of gurna song based on textual analysis as well as conversations with song composers . Five rhetorical forms seemed to me to be most salient: a) praise and greeting; b) metacommentary on the dance; c) insult (arge); d) recounting of shameful acts (sõore); and e) social commentary. The juxtaposition of diverse units in a single gurna song, its layered (or 110 Journey of Song cobbled-together) quality, is striking. Samuel Kléda and Suzanne Ruelland (1998) have approached the analysis of gurna song by cataloguing the many themes of a single song. Taking a different tack, I aim to give the reader a deeper sense of how each of the five rhetorical types operate across many songs. This tactic enables me to explore some of the typical conventions that mark each form. At the end of the chapter, I consider how the structure of gurna song shapes the values of spontaneity, constancy, and polyvocality in the genre. Throughout, I emphasize the “handprint” of the processes of song production visible in the rhetorical conventions . If the song has multiple guises in the public sphere of the gurna, how does its poetics reflect this polyvalence? How might a composer deploy these various rhetorical forms for different intentions? Or how might the song be fashioned so that it said different things to different people? Different parts of the song have different audiences, even if composers are wont to say that every Tupuri-speaker understands the entire song. Far from being transparent texts, gurna song lyrics are crafted for both insider and outsider audiences. On the one hand, composers and their informants insert insult (arge) and stories about shameful behavior (sõore) into the song to bring maximum embarrassment to their targets, knowing that these nuggets would be widely circulated au quartier. On the other hand, composers also insert strings of names into the song as a form of praise and encouragement to their most loyal dancers. Only the gurna themselves can possibly keep track of the thicket of names in each annual song, tracking shifts in fame of individuals and camps. Deploying a variety of rhetorical forms, the composer creates a work of oral poetry that speaks to multiple constituencies simultaneously . “MOTIVATION OF NAMES”: PRAISE AND GREETING Gurna song enacts and makes public—and therefore “real”—the social networks among men created by the gurna society...


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