Songs from the mountains: 1983

A 1983 audio-cassette of songs from the resistance has emerged from the shadows of an Australian private collection of Timor materials.

The 60 minute cassette contains resistance and traditional songs. The compilation is introduced by resistance leader Xanana Gusmao who also reads a soliloquy or poem in Portuguese.

How it came to be

The cassette was brought out of East Timor in 1983 by Senator Gordon McIntosh in whose archival collection a copy survives. McIntosh was in Timor as a member of the controversial Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the Indonesian-occupied territory in July that year. The music was given to him by one of the delegation’s Timorese transport drivers with a request that McIntosh post it to a Timorese in Australia (name forgotten).  On return to Australia, he posted the original but made and kept a copy just in case original disappeared.

Below are some samples from the copied tape. The quality is unsurprisingly variable – being the product of low-quality recording, tapes and copying facilities in the mountains.

[Recording temporarily withdrawn; seeking permission from source to place on Internet. 13 January 2010 07:30 GMT]

Help needed

I have posted this sample to get help to answer some questions that come to mind.:

  • Is this compilation well-known and do copies exist elsewhere?
  • Are some of the non-traditional songs well-known now and were they composed after the invasion?
  • Were any of these songs more professionally recorded in the diaspora?
  • Is this compilation of particular significance to the record of resistance?
  • If significant, who/what is the best Timorese person/institution to assist to transcribe and preserve the compilation?

If you have answers to any of these questions I would be grateful for your comment on this blog (see ‘Leave a reply’ below) or an email to me at: blog[at]


A brief listening by a Portuguese speaker suggests that while songs dominate the recording, they may in fact be interludes to a long resistance message from Xanana to compatriots and supporters outside Timor.


4 Responses to Songs from the mountains: 1983

  1. Estevao Cabral says:

    Dear John,

    I have noticed that you have withdrawn the cassette in order to seek “permission from source” before placing it on internet. The problem is: who has the right ‘to give’ permission? The cassette was sent abroad as part of the work of the Resistance Network.

    Best wishes,


    • timorarchives says:

      Thanks, Estevao, for your question.

      My personal opinion is that there is unlikely to be a problem with public release. The recording sounds very much like it was meant to be circulated and heard by the Timorese disapora when it was made sometime in the early 1980s and is unlikely to contain anything of high political sensitivity.

      The main voice on the cassette is Xanana. The owner of this copy (Gordon McIntosh) feels strongly he should check first with Xanana that it is OK for the recording to be made public on the internet. I have no choice but to accept this condition. However, getting a copy of the recording to Xanana for his opinion has proved frustratingly difficult (not Xanana’s fault; a long story in itself).

      Your question about who has the right to give permission for placing something on the internet that was already sent abroad as part of the work of the resistance is an important one.

      The simplest answer is that technically/legally, the creator of a communication has the natural right to say how it can be used or reproduced.

      I think it is important to distinguish between internal/secret/private communications and communications intended for public circulation.

      I am hopeful that the original creators of material intended to be public will agree to them being posted on the internet. Time will tell….

      Your question is very timely for me. I will try in the next few weeks to open up discussion of this issue on this Blog. I hope you will contribute more to the discussion.

      Best wishes


  2. Judy says:

    I’m wondering if Xanana has been approached re this recording and if so what his decision was.

    • timorarchives says:

      Thanks, Judy. It is an ongoing saga to get this in front of XG. We are certain there will be no problem but have no choice but to wait. In progress and thanks for the reminder. John W

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: