TONG TANA (Penan for “into the forest”) is an ethnographic sound work and live performance comprised of a sequence of structured improvisations and stories inspired by the few remaining native forests in the world and the dispossession from land of the first peoples who still live in them.

TONG TANA is comprised of structured improvisations and voice works, spoken word and field recordings of the last forest peoples of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. It also includes a hand made banjo set up to imitate the Sape, a traditional instrument of the Kenyah, one of 40 sub-ethnic groups found to be living in the forests of Borneo. Garton also uses small microphones placed within his mouth, paper cups and skewers and an array of old speakers through which some of these sounds are amplified through.
TONG TANA was conceived in the midst of a documentary shoot in the remote forests of the Ulu Baram with the Penan, perhaps the oldest and only remaining nomadic forest peoples in Sarawak.
A man from the Kenyah peoples many of whom live in a resettlement area. Their original forest homes have been inundated by the controversial Bakun Dam.

TONG TANA draws direct influence from the indigenous peoples of Sarawak (one of two states of Malaysia on the island of Borneo), struggling to maintain their customary right to the land that feeds them, that they protect and have lived with for countless generations.

One musician claims to retain twenty-seven generations of music for the sape alone, all of which were composed and performed in the forests of Bakun where the largest, and most controversial, hydro-electric dam in the southern hemisphere is being built. Two students remain to learn not only his skills, but the entire musical heritage of his people.

TONG TANA was originally composed and performed by Andrew Garton in collaboration with the South African trio, Benguela and visualist, Andrew Parker. It made its debut performance at the Alliance Française, Cape Town, July 2009. It was performed a second time in Australia, this time with local musicians and lighting designers, during Garton’s two year artists residency at Clifton Pugh’s Dunmoochin, Cottles Bridge, Victoria.

TONG TANA, a journey into the forest, the communities that have grown there and the fragility of their culture in the face of modernity and the collapse of a life interwoven with nature.

For more information about TONG TANA contact Andrew Garton.

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a spoken word fusion