Foho Ramelau

Words: Francisco Borja da Costa (1946-1975)
Music: Traditional Maubere / Abilio de Araujo
Additional harmonies: Jean-Anne Jones

An hour over the ocean from Darwin lies the betrayed nation of East Timor. Although drawn unwillingly into World War II the people of East Timor assisted the uninvited Australian troops against the Japanese assault and paid a hideous price. Their reward was thirty more years of foreign rule by the fascist government of Portugal, a few days of independance, and another generation of genocide under blood-soaked General Soeharto. In 1975 the Australian government had the power, merely by protesting, to prevent the Indonesian invasion and the subsequent loss of 200,000 East Timorese lives, but instead it chose silence – the chill silence of mass graves.

We want very much to dedicate our East Timorese songs to the memory of our friend and comrade Michele Turner, whose voice was never silent, but courageous and passionate during the many years she made a determined outcry for East Timor’s freedom.

This song (and Kolelemai) come from the independence struggle of East Timor. The lyrics of both were written by Francisco Borja da Costa, a leader of the Fretilin forces resisting Portugal’s colonisation of East Timor who was killed in 1975 on the day his independent country fell to a new enemy, Indonesia.

Foho Ramelau is an invocation of East Timor’s highest mountain, Mt Ramelau, which shelters and symbolises the people’s resistance to foreign occupation. It has a traditional Timorese folk tune in two parts, with additional bass and soprano harmonies by the Solidarity Choir’s Jean-Anne Jones.

Translation:

Hey, Mount Ramelau!
What is higher than your peak?
What is greater than your majesty?

Why, Timor, is your head forever bowed?
Why, Timor, are your children enslaved?
Why, Timor, do your children doze like chickens?
Why, Timor, do your children doze like slaves?

Open your eyes, a new sun is over your village.
Open your eyes, a new sun is over your land.

Awake! The foot of the mountain is wide.
Awake! A new sun has risen.
Awake! Take the reigns of your own horse,
Awake! Take command of your own land!

Lyrics:

Eh! Foho Ramelau, Foho Ramelau eh!
Sábé ás liu ó tutun, sábé bein liu ó lolon eh!

Tan sá timur ulun sudur uai-uain?
Tan sá timur oan ata uai-uain?
Tan sá timur oan hakruk bei-beik?
Tan sá timur oan atan bei-beik?

Loke matan loro foun to’ o iha ó knuak
Loke matan loro foun iha ita rain.

Hader rai-hun mutin ona lá!
Hader loro foun sa’ e ona lá!
Hader kaer rasik kuda talin eh!
Hader ukun rasik ita rain eh!

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Author: solidaritychoir

Activist choir in Sydney Australia

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