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Concert for East Timor

Finally, after 26 years of Indonesian rule, East Timor sealed its independence with peaceful democratic elections in May of this year. It’s not been without a struggle. Some 200,000 East Timorese – a staggering one-fifth of the population – died as a result of famine, disease and violence during the Indonesian occupation. This collective trauma is not to be forgotten easily. Organized by the Melbourne Millennium Chorus and a host of musicians from both East Timor and Australia, the *Concert for East Timor* makes up in sheer spirit what it lacks in other departments. It’s an ambitious mix of traditional tunes, band-led songs and choral singing. Some tracks – an adaptation of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Biko’ or Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ – are rousing classics. At other moments – for all the Chorus’s endeavours – the concert is let down by anodyne music and lyrics. But when the *Concert for East Timor* gets going, it can be electrifying. La Voce Della Luna and Kavisha Mazzella’s ‘L’egualianza’ (Equality) pulse with life, and Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier’s three songs showcase a wonderfully bluesy voice which is the CD’s highlight. The Dili All Stars go for a good-time ska with ‘Liberdade’ (Liberty) that becomes all the more pertinent when you realize that prior to 1999 the Timorese were forbidden to write ‘Timorese’ songs.