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New book about Japanese era on Rota includes songs from the period

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THE Northern Marianas Humanities Council on Wednesday hosted the launch of Lynn Michael’s “Memories & Music: The Japanese Era on Rota,” a collection of people’s first-hand accounts of their experiences during the war.

2019 Miss Marianas Shannon Sasamoto holds a copy of “Memories & Music: The Japanese Era on Rota” with author Lynn Michael on Wednesday evening at the Visitor Center of American Memorial Park.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

“What is interesting is that each person has their own perspective,” Michael said. “Each person has their own memories and they are not all consistent. Some have really rough experiences — people saw people beaten up and tortured, but some people didn’t feel the impact [of the war]. Each person’s memory is quite unique,” she added.

Besides these personal accounts about the war, Michael also collected the music from that historical period.

She said these included Japanese songs taught to local children, game songs, religious songs, and traditional Chamorita songs, some of which were sung to convey secret messages.

During the book launch at the Visitor Center of American Memorial Park on Wednesday, Michael played some of these old songs.

With the help of the local people, Michael recorded the songs in 1987 and 1988. “Those people who sang these songs were already old. These were their memories when they were between six and 18 years old during the war.”

The book includes the lyrics of the old songs, and two CDs.

She said these songs are more than 80 years old already. “[Old] people know them, but I think the kids don’t know them anymore.”

Her book, she added, aims to preserve the local people’s historical memory.

“You just don’t just read about it, but you can also listen to the music of that era,” she said.

“This is part of the local people’s heritage. Knowing your own history gives you strength. Reading about what your ancestors did during those tough times will give you something to be proud of,” she added.

Michael has a background in enthnomusicology, which is the “study of music from the cultural and social aspects of the people who make it.”

Through a grant from the Consortium of Pacific Arts and Cultures, which also provided students recording equipment to interview the manamko’ about their memories of the Japanese era and World War II, she was able to publish “Memories and Music: The Japanese Era on Rota.”

Copies are available at the Northern Marianas Humanities Council office at Springs Plaza on Middle Road.

Proceeds will be donated to the Rota public library.

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