Today’s song — Kimi to Wakarete [Apart from You] — is clearly influenced by the culture — songs and movies — brought to Palau by the Japanese colonists in the period of 1914 through 1945. The subject of the song is familiar, with the couple and their children living apart, possibly for work or school, but also possibly a result of their “cursed” behavior. The song composition is credited to Belekuu , a name I have not previously come across and I know nothing about this person. A 1933 Japanese silent movie entitled Kimi to Wakarete might have inspired the song, although perhaps we will never know. Here is a short clip from that movie:
Let’s listen to a recording from the Ngerel Belau Radio Tapes. This recording was on a tape simply labeled “Palauan Music”, and contained 18 recordings from the 1960s/70s. Because of the lack of a label, I don’t know the name of the singer or the accompanying band members. The singer is accompanied by a guitar and mandolin playing in a spot-on imitation of a Japanese song, including a pretty amazing mandolin break. Does anyone know which Japanese song this comes from?
Today’s song – Did er a Sechou [the bridge of Sechou] — celebrates a special place in Ngeremlengui, on the jetty (btelulachang) that extends from Ngermetengel. This song was composed by Yoichi Rengiil.
Btelulachang era Ngermetengel me a Did er a Sechou
The first recording of this song is from the Ngerel Belau Radio tapes, recorded sometime between 1963 and 1967  by Baurie Oingerang , with Yoichi singing this song backed by the VOP (Voice of Palau) band, consisting of a mandolin and guitar. The backup musicians are currently unidentified. Source  lists the composition date as 1968, which conflicts with the recording date from source .
The song is played in waltz (3/4) time, is in a major key (Ionian mode) and is diatonic (all 7 notes are used). In the 1960s recording, the chords are limited to the I, IV and V chords. In later recordings, the musicians substitute relative minor chords.
I’ve been singing the song Kerdek er a Beluu since sometime in the early 1980s. I’m not sure who first taught it to me, but it is one of the first Palauan songs I learned (well, except maybe Mechas Momes, which I learned in Peace Corps training as a way to learn the parts of the body). I still have the paper with the song lyric on it, that was probably typed by Diane who was a secretary in Public Works. The watermark on the paper has “1980”, so I probably got it in about 1980 or 81. The song is attributed to Gailliard Kladikm, and his 1989 tape “Kirikirs” is the earliest recording of it I have found. I left Palau in 1984, so the song must have been in circulation for awhile before he recorded it. Also, Cisca Yalap’s songbook  indicates that the composer was Halley Eriich, in 1981. In any event, let’s listen to Gailliard’s recording:
Ymesei Ezekiel was at the top of his song-writing game in the late 1950s, a period in which he seemed to crank out song after song. Today’s song — Orekuul — get’s its title from the name of the place where the men would practice and perform the ruk dance, an ancient dance style whose source is said to be the god Uchelchelid. Ymesei composed this song ,  in 1958 .
Since only men dance the ruk, and the singer of this song is anticipating going to the orekuul to watch the ruk and see the one who captured her heart, I infer that the song is from the perspective of a woman. She is excited about the prospect of seeing him, to remind him of how good things had been between them, and she hopes that they can work out a plan to continue and complete her love. But, because he is a man with no compassion, she leaves confused and broken-hearted. She is willing to be subservient to him (di okikiuellem – just walk behind you) if only he would confront the problems they face, but he wants to sweep them under the rug, to keep them hidden as a private affair.
Bechesiil Le Ngak [Sweetheart, because it was me], composed by Ymesei Ezekiel ,  most likely in 1958 , is another “hurt and inert” love song, where the singer expresses her sorrow over following her former lover, both literally (ulekiuellem — walking behind him) and figuratively (ak lilemolem a soam), only to be left abandoned and confused. The singer expected that in return for following her lover, he would remain faithful to her. Instead, he continued doing what he wanted. Although it is not clear if their relationship is over, she tells him to take care of her heart because, after all, they live in the same village and a nasty breakup will be uncomfortable for both of them.
Among the oldest recordings of “modern” Palauan music (beches el chelitakl, distinct from older, chant-type songs) that I have found are the recordings that the Japanese anthropologist Iwakichi Muranushi made in 1936 while he took part in what was known as the Micronesian Expedition . Apparently as an after-thought, the expedition equipment included a Dictaphone recorder and blank wax cylinders, which were used for recording the music of the islands they visited on their trip. During the expedition, 44 cylinders were recorded containing 265 songs, including 180 songs from Palau. The cylinders were sent to the Bishop Museum (Hawaii) in 1936 where they remained in storage until 1981 when restoration work on the recordings began.
Of the 180 Palauan songs that were recorded, 36 were released in the “Call of the Morning Bird” collection. I’ve yet to find out what happened to the other 144 recordings. Maria Ikelau Otto, a Palauan, worked with the team documenting this collection to transcribe and translate the Palauan songs in the collection.
As I have written previously, modern Palauan music came out of a cross-cultural exchange resulting from the many people working and living together in the Angaur phosphate mines. This collection is incredibly important as it establishes a time-line for the songs composed in the first 20 years of the existence of this new musical form.
Today’s song — Adidil eng Uoi Meringel [Remembering and It Was Rather Painful] — also goes by the name “Kuureng e Matsidosi” [Longing to Meet with You] expresses the pain of a woman whose husband has wandered off to sleep with a former lover while she is left to take care of their children, who miss their father.
The oldest recording of this song I have found is from Keizy Shiro’s YouTube site . The majority of the comments on that site agree that the singer is Julie Tatengelel Aichi. This is likely from the late 1970s or the early 1980s. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Adidil eng Uoi Meringel, Julie Tatengelel, early 1980s