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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 03:36 GMT 04:36 UK


Music to the ears of Timor's voters

East Timorese band Lahane helps spread the word about voting

The United Nations team organising the referendum in East Timor has turned to the power of music to ensure as many Timorese as possible get their chance to vote.


Listen to the full version of the Unamet song, Hakotu Ba by Lahane
In preparation for the ballot on independence - now due on 30 August - a local group has been commissioned to write and record a song urging East Timorese to register for their right to vote.

The all-singing, 15-member group called Lahane, more accustomed to performing at parties and weddings, translated the lyrics into the local language, Tetun, and composed an upbeat score to accompany it.


[ image: Voters are being told to exercise their voice in East Timor's future]
Voters are being told to exercise their voice in East Timor's future
The resulting song "Hakotu Ba" (Please Decide) is, in the words of one member of the UN team, "like a mix of Country and Western and Hawaian ... real foot-tapping stuff."

But besides adding a light-hearted note to a serious issue, the song is seen as a way of spreading information amongst a population in which a large proportion are illiterate and where posters and leaflets would be ineffective.

The message to East Timor' 400,000 or so eligible voters is: "Your vote is your voice - you will not be heard unless you register!"

(Click here to see a translation of the lyrics)

The vote will decide whether East Timor remains a part of Indonesia with wide-ranging autonomy or moves towards outright independence.

Across the airwaves


[ image: The song is part of a wide-ranging UN media mission in East Timor]
The song is part of a wide-ranging UN media mission in East Timor
The song was recorded earlier this month at the government studios where the radio station set up by the UN mission in East Timor (Unamet) has been set up.

Now, alongside regular airings on Unamet Radio's daily programmes, it is being played at the 200 voter registration stations with Lahane itself touring the territory to play live performances in local villages.

It has also filmed what is described as "an MTV-style video" for broadcast on Unamet TV.

Staying neutral


[ image: The UN is keen to demonstrate its presence is strictly neutral]
The UN is keen to demonstrate its presence is strictly neutral
But the UN team behind the song has had to tread carefully to ensure the entire operation remains impartial and does not appear to ally itself with the either of the territory's often violently opposed pro- and anti-independence camps.

As a result Lahane cannot appear wearing traditional East Timorese dress or any colours that might be interpreted as a sign of political allegiance.

Instead, in the video and for live performances, sombre shirts and ties are the order of the day.




[ image:  ]

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