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School performance

Australia in Asia

Tour of WA in 2011 - members of the band




Repertoire, background and ideas for cross discipline activities
         Trepanging words to the song
            Asian Marketplace
               Mongolian Horseman


Sirocco has performed with musicians from China, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Russian Far East, Tibet, Singapore, Hong Kong, Central Asia and Korea, both in Australia and in those counties listed. This gives the group a unique knowledge and experience of Australia in Asia. They have performed with Dayak musicians in Borneo, Dan Bao players in Hanoi, Qwali and Ghazzal singers from Pakistan, Revop musicians in Urumqi and Tibetan flautists in Sydney.

The group has a fundamental appreciation of the variety and depth of the music of Asia and its creative potential for Australia. The group is familiar with the variations within the borders of these countries, north and south Indian music, the regions of China, Kazak, Mongolian and Uigher music of Central Asia.

The three expert musicians of Sirocco combine with the Chinese flautist, Chai Chang Ning, to present a unique, exciting, and fascinating window to the world of Asia. They introduce instruments made of the most useful grass known to mankind - bamboo - flutes, percussion and even jaws harps. They combine modern electronics with these ancient instruments - just as is found in modern Asia.

Chinese Ch'in

Repertoire, background and ideas for cross discipline activities


Featuring the pentatonic scale, this composition paints a picture of the unknown part of Asia, the west coast of the Sea of Japan. Sirocco toured to the Primorski Region ( Russian Far East) in 1990 as part of an Australian Trade exhibition in the famous Soviet deep port of Vladivostok.

The countries surrounding the sea include Korea, Japan, China (Manchuria) and the Russian Far East.

Instruments used : Bamboo flute

Chungo (Korean Drum), Chinese Gongs

ASIDE; The history and environment of this region is fascinating. For example:

  • The extensive forests of Manchuria and the Russian far east are famous for their tigers.
  • Korea, also known as the hermit kingdom, was victorious in a war against Japan many years ago, by using 'turtle boats'. These were boats with protective coverings like that of a turtle. To this day the turtle is found throughout Korea in ponds - in much the same way as the Japanese revere the golden carp.
  • The ports on the eastern coast of the Sea of Japan provided a trade route for Europe to trade with Asia.

    Borneo Gongs


The trepang, also known as the sea cucumber or worm of the ocean, was a sought after food delight in China. This song takes the listener on the voyage of the Macassan (Sulawesi) sailors in search of the highly prized food. The Macassans worked with the Arnhemland aborigines to hunt 'the worm'. This exchange was the first known trade link between Australia and Asia. The legacy of this trade can be seen throughout the Northern Western Australia in the Tamarind trees that grow on the coast. The trees are not native to the Australian subcontinent and were planted by the sailors as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. The Macassans used all the navigation assistance provided by the natural elements including the ocean swells, paths of the migrating birds, the stars, the patterns of the clouds. Once the trepang was collected it was prepared for transport to the markets of Canton (Southern China)

(source: Rolls, Eric (1992) Sojourners: Flower and the Wide Sea UQP St Lucia)

ASIDE : the song is introduced in the repertoire to illustrate that trade with Asia has a long history.

The style of the song allows the audience to sing along to with the rising chorus.

The rich resources of the islands of present day Indonesia was thought to be one of the reasons for the European settlement of Australia. The famous spice islands and the problems on the 'silk road' across Asia lead to the need for a sea route from Europe to S. East Asia. The knowledge and maps gained from the trade were used by the French and British to settle Australia and the Pacific.

Bamboo Devil Chasers - Philippines


Trepanging - words to the song


From our home in Macassa
We man the prahus and point the rudder
On the run to Arnhemland
Hunting for the Worm of the Ocean


Sea Reading
Cloud patterns
Birds flying
Stars pointing
Across the ocean swell
Hunting for the Worm of the Ocean

The North West Monsoon blows us down The dry Sou' Easter sends us home

Upon the reefs the trepang lie
For the Chinese trade to ply
Off the coast of Arnhemland
Trading the worm of the ocean

Song explanation : The islands of Indonesia and the Philippines had a common trade routes and the prahu was the main type of vessel plying these routes. These boats were often owned by Chinese traders as the dried trepang eventually found its way to the markets of Canton.
The sailors of the prahu, as with all island peoples in Asia and the Pacific, were known for their navigation skills. In particular the ability to read the environment and make navigation decisions based on a variety of indicators. Perhaps the most surprising is the ability to feel the various wave patterns under the boat. As described in 'The Voyaging Stars, Secrets of the Pacific Island Navigators' by David Lewis, the sailors were experts in reading the complex ocean swells and breaking them down into their component waves patterns. The patterns, type and even the colour of the clouds acted as signposts. The migrating birds indicated direction and the type of bird often indicated the distance to land. Eric Rolls in his book the Sojourners likens the navigation skills of the Macassans to those of the land navigation skills of the Aborigines.

Punji -the 'snake charmer' of India

Asian Marketplace

No other image of the richness and variety of the cultures of Asia can surpass that of the bustling market place. The smells and sounds of the 'exotic far east' are often symbolised by such a scene. In the Asian marketplace, Sirocco uses a series of music quotes - as if the listener was passing through the bazaar. In the marketplace Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and all the other cultures and religions mix and interact. Turn one corner and the listen is in the middle of India, the snake charmer and the sound of an India raga. Down a lane are stalls selling goods from Central Asia, next Japan and finally from the greatest market of Asia, China. It finishes with the appearance of the Dragon.

Tibetan prayer bells

ASIDE ; This piece illustrates the variety of cultures of Asia. It is impossible to play a piece from each of the cultures. Sirocco uses the idea of sampling from a marketplace.

One of the interesting materials used for instrument ( and for that matter almost everything from building scaffolding to spoons) is bamboo. A variety of bamboo instruments are introduced in the Asian Marketplace.

Oud - played in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan

Mongolian Horseman

This composition features the bamboo flute. Common to much of the music of Asia is the description of a scene or a time of the day. In this piece the listener is asked to imagine the lone Mongolian horseman on the vast steppes of Asia. The music is slow to start as the scene of the steppes is created. The flat grasslands stretching to the horizon - a line of symmetry. The flocks of sheep a mirror image the clouds of the sky. The only break in the horizontal line is the lone horseman who starts to canter and then move to a full gallop across the plains.

ASIDE . This region of the world is relatively unknown in textbooks. However it contains a fascinating history that has impinged on both Europe and Asia.

Ghengis Khan, Kublai Khan, Tamerlane and Attila the Hun are just some of the leaders that originated from Central Asia. The long Manchu dynasty of China was a result of the conquering horseman of the steppes. The Moghul empire of India came originally from Central Asia. The tribes of Central Asia include not just the Mongols but the Uigers, Kazaks and the Uzbecks. The present day Uigers number over 10 million. Their dependence on the horse is legendary and many of the instruments of Central Asia are made from horse bones and horse hair.

More information :Grousset, Rene (1970) The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia, Rutgers University Press London

Korean Drum

Other schools projects : Music Generator : Sirocco in Traralgon

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