Today’s song — “Ngcheangel” [Kayangel], also known as “Kayangel a Tara Ungil Beluu” [Kayangel is one good village] or “Ngerbelas” — celebrates the special place for two lovers on the beach of the small island of Ngerbelas at the south end of the Kayangel atoll. I categorize this song, composed by Kebekol Alfonso in the 1950s, in the “kingelled” [our place] group of songs. Its lyrics provide us with the actual date of the tryst (Dec-15-1952) and wonderful images of a peaceful island paradise that many people in the world dream of. The lyric also celebrates Kayangel as a whole, thus earning its alternate title “Kayangel a tara ungil beluu.”
Let’s start by listening to Te-ich Tiou and the Friday Night Club with this recording from the Ngerel Belau Radio Tapes from the 1960s. As recording starts, you hear the background sound of frogs chirping that is shared by a number of recordings in this collection. This was truly a field recording! The song is tastefully simple with just voice and backing guitar.
Kayangel a Tara Ungil Beluu, Te-ich Tiou & the Friday Night Club, 1960s
The lyrics are as follows:
Omoeba, natsukasi era Monday night
Jyuu ni Jyuugo
senkyu hyaku go jyuu ni nen
Anokoro, anotoki omou
El Ngerbelas mak di ourureng
Ngcheangel a ungil, beluu lodak a bedenged
A reng era rechad el di mo tang
Mireng no, kishita ano yoruwa
Me sel chelechol mo bedul Ngeruangel
Tsumetai , shiokaze soyogu
ki no ha yureru
Awai yo-ru no shizukesa ni
De nakua hamachidori
Kinneng rekid, a lius a ngara mor Dilong
Me a bebil
E ke medengei leng ngara iikr
Nokoru o-moi ngara llel ongor
tamana no hamabe
Me di dchachill, era ta le bol deledesed
Kau a mei
Me kede momes a kingelled
(repeat 3rd line with:)
Kau a mei me kede modingel a mla roled
A good bulk of these lyrics are in the Japanese language, and Kaoru Ruluked was kind enough to help me by providing a translation and fixing the spelling for the Japanese phrases.
Recalling the sweet memories of Monday night
in the year 1952
Thinking of those days and that time
Our place to meet
at Ngerbelas island, I am just nostalgic for it
Kayangel is a good village, it unifies our bodies
the hearts of the people to just be one
I cannot forget that night, that is still on my mind
and that beach that faces Ngeruangel
A cool breeze from the ocean rustles
the leaves of the coconuts trees
causing them to sway
Pale silence of night
On the beach
With the cry of the birds
Our souvenir, a coconut tree that is on the way to Dilong
and some others
that you know because they are outside
Memories were left on the leaf of a pineapple
of the beach with the btaches tree
We will just wait for each other until the one time we are both free
When you will come
and we will see our special place
(repeat 3rd line with:)
You will come and we will visit our ways of the past
With the first verse, the song establishes the date of the encounter as December 15, 1952, which, indeed, was a Monday. In the 7th verse, I translate the word “kinneng” as “souvenir”, in the sense that it is something that provides a person a reminder for an event or a promise made in the past. While most of the action appears to be happening on the island of Ngerbelas, the 7th verse is taking place on the main island of Kayangel, on the way to Dilong. The last part of that verse is a bit mysterious, with the meaning only to be understood by the two people in the know.
In the 8th verse, he gives the location of their special place as being the beach with the “tamana,” which is the Japanese word for what is called “btaches” in Palauan , Alexandrian laurel ball tree in English and has the latin name Calophyllum inophyllum L. The nuts on this tree are very distinctive and can be used to play marbles. Maybe that’s what our two friends were playing in this song?
In any event, the secret rendezvous of the two seems to go well, without the usual separation and ending in heartbreak. Although, their relationship isn’t permanent, as he suggests that they do it again when they are both free. “Let’s check our calendars and see when we might have some free time!”
This song was recorded by the PM-AM band and released with the title “Ngcheangel” on their 2002 tape of the same name. That band included Sikitong and James Beltau, Fidensia Tangelbad and Edwin Ongrung. On their tape they credit the composition of the song to Kebekol.
Ngcheangel, PM-AM band, 2002
Way-Way Elbelau sang this song at the Friday Night Market in 2016. Here’s a video of that, with the song given the title “Ngerbelas” on the video. Note that there is another, completely different song that has the title “Ngerbelas.” Nice guitar playing by Opi on this video.
The song was sung in waltz (3/4) time in the Tei-Ich recording from the 1960s, but the last two recordings shifted the time signature to 4/4 time.
How wonderful that 65 years later, we are still remembering that night on the beach of Ngerbelas.