It took me a while, but I finally caught up with the rest of American society and watched the musical play Hamilton. For those of you that may not know about it, it’s a play based on the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States. Understand, I said the play is based on his life, not 100% representative. So yes, Hamilton was known to be a great communicator. But I’m pretty sure that he didn’t compete in a rap battle to get his point across with his peers. And that’s ok. As long as people get the general idea of what is being covered, who cares if there is a beat that makes you dance with it. It did bring up a question for me: How are other cultures representing their history in a musical way? And then, I looked up Naqqali storytelling.
The definition as I understand it
It wasn’t until asking about storytelling types in the many Facebook groups that I am a part of that I even knew that Naqqali storytelling existed. Using the definition from the Intangible Cultural Heritage website (see link below), I learned this: “The performer – the Naqqāl – recounts stories in verse or prose accompanied by gestures and movements, and sometimes instrumental music and painted scrolls.” This type of storytelling helps to preserve the Persian literature and culture. I’m sure this concept of plays preserving history and culture happens in countries across the world. What I find interesting is the different ways each culture does it. For example, in Naqqali storytelling, the story must take a musical form. Thankfully, there is no musical requirement for the storytelling I do. That saves my voice and your ears!
Something else that I thought about
Speaking of requirements for telling these stories, the story teller in Naqqali storytelling has to be approved by a current story teller. And that’s just to start the training needed to tell these stories. It’s not the first time I have heard having this kind of requirement for telling cultural stories. In the Facebook group the Co-Creators and Memory Keepers (Check out here) and at the Story Crossroads (Check out there) the conversation has come up about who gets to tell what types of stories. Should there be a selection process like this? Should the process of getting approved to tell a particular story be done? This question makes me think about sushi.
From being stationed in Japan during my military career, I got a taste and love for sushi. All kinds of it. I live in the US now, but I still love sushi. I’ve eaten it in places that specialize in sushi, and I’ve even gotten it at grocery stores. Overall, it’s OK, but it’s not the same as when I lived in Japan. In the same way, I think of telling stories from other cultures. A person may do an OK job of telling the story, but it is not the same. Unlike my example of sushi, there is a bigger impact on changing cultural stories. As the parts are changed and become missing, the story changes, the meaning changes, and the understanding changes. So having someone approved and trained to deliver cultural stories is one way the culture is preserved. Not only is it important to tell your story on purpose, it’s important to tell the cultural story with purpose.
Intangible Cultural Heritage website