1-8 Retroactive: Fest Napuan

 Retroactive = All things Vanuatu that I haven’t had time to write due to finishing the book.

Arno, rocking out on stage.  (He’s a tutor at the youth center, too.)

Fest Napuan is an annual music festival in Vanuatu. It is a Big Deal for people in Vila or involved in the music scene in Vanuatu. The organizing committee selects 3-5 international bands and pays their way to Vanuatu and there are competitions for Vanuatu bands to win slots in the performance schedule.

The first night is known as Fest Nalenga and is run by Wan SmolBag Youth Center. Needless to say, it was insane. Early on, they asked if I, and the photo class, would like to do the photography. I said yes, then made them promise that it would be me and photo class doing it, not having it co-opted by an outside organization. They agreed that the outside organization would have no claim on us, so I happily went ahead with organizing 4 nights of photography class.

She tried to get people to dance.  It was hilarious.

We arrived at Saralana Park around 5 on Thursday. We took lots of pretty pictures of the sunset, the stalls and other such things while waiting for the bands to show up. The bands showed up and we continued taking lots of pretty pictures. I got some pretty great ones of the hip hop dancers (though I was shooting on WSB’s camera, not mine), and we had a good time.

She rocked the dancing on stage.  It was great.

We had to beg a bit to get media passes for the next three nights, but we made it work. The organizers were, justifiably, unwilling to give just anyone a pass. So, my co-teacher asked very nicely if his pass could extend to cover his students. They agreed that as long as his students were well-behaved, it wouldn’t be an issue. We made sure they were well-behaved. I got to know the security guard on our little corner, so over the next few nights, he recognized me and the students. (He is now teaching our martial arts class, but that’s a different story.)

The youth learned a latin-style dance.

The music was excellent all week. It varied from string band to reggae to a group for Madagascar doing a local music/reggae fusion thing and a group from someplace in central Africa (I’ve forgotten where) that did a fantastic local music and drums/rock fusion. The headliners were Rise of the Morning Star, a music group made up of people from all over the South Pacific who are raising awareness of the Free West Papau movement, and Stan and the Earth Force, the top reggae band in the South Pacific. Though I enjoyed both those groups, the all-women’s ground was my favorite. The lead singer was not afraid to dance, to jump

out in the crowd and to use her music to tell people to respect women, end domestic violence and educate their daughters. They were pretty great.

Despite working a full week, I still went and ran my photo class (and practiced my own photography, while listening to great live music) from 5pm-10pm every night. Saturday we stayed even later. By Sunday, I was completely wiped out.

Stan and the Earth Force

Let me rant for a short time. I made it very clear to my students that there are a few rules of being a professional.

  1. Do not block the view of the audience. They are not here to see your bum, they are here to watch the performers.
  2. Do not use a flash. Figure out how to use the available light to make an interesting photo. The flash is distracting to the performers and often makes the photo look flat.
  3. Be respectful of the organizers and security personnel. If they tell you to move, move.

I consider these rules to be the absolute basics of being a professional. (Well, I guess more basic would be, “Be respectful of other performers, crew and, you know, everybody.”) I wish all the organizations had chosen to teach their students those basics. Or failing that, would have at least taught their students how to use their camera well enough to turn off the flash in low-light so that they had the option of shooting that way.

Ok, without spoiling the names of the organizations, I’m done ranting.

It was a fun week full of music. It was also an exhausting week full of teaching and working. You might ask what Jason was doing while I was busy teaching photography classes? He was drinking kava with our brothers. Sometimes, he’d even bring me a shell.