Internet archive plan to save dying cultures

SOME of the world’s most endangered chants, poems and songs could soon be protected with the help of the internet, university experts said yesterday.

Folk stories and myths from hundreds of tribes across the world are being threatened by globalisation and rapid socio-economic change, according to linguists and anthropologists at Cambridge University.

Since January, they have been working to create a digital archive of vocal expressions from some of the most obscure cultures on the planet.

The experts at the World Oral Literature Project hope that with the help of digital technology, communities can document their songs and chants and submit them to be archived.

The communities will then be able to access them in the future if the practices die out.

Dr Mark Turin, a research associate at Cambridge University who is director of the project, said: “You cannot protect these cultures unless they have been documented first.

“There might be a community in south India that has a series of songs once taught by their grandfathers which the youngsters no longer learn.

“We can start by providing some equipment and training so that communities can document the songs, at the same time creating a permanent archive.

“There are a number of benefits to globalisation...

“But there is also an urgent need to document their forms of cultural expression before they are eroded.”

The project has already handed out 10 grants to researchers in Mongolia and South America.

One project has recorded ceremonial chanting among the 1,890 people who speak the Barasana language in the Vaupes region of Colombia.

Another has documented the vocal repertoire of Tashi Tsering, the last royal singer of Lo Monthang region in Mustang, Nepal.


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