Maubere Timor: Retaining Timor-Leste’s songs of resistance alive | East Timor Information

Domingos Pinto Gabrial, also called Berliku, was a 19-year-old faculty trainer within the northeastern metropolis of Baucau when Indonesian forces invaded Timor-Leste in December 1975.

He joined many younger individuals in fleeing to the mountains to affix the newly established resistance military, FALINTIL (Forcas Armadas de Libertacao de Timor-Leste, or Armed Forces for the Liberation of Timor-Leste). “We had no alternative; we simply needed to struggle.”


A brief man with a steely look in his eyes and the muscle tissue of somebody used to arduous work, Berliku is now the lead singer of Maubere Timor, a band of veterans who sing patriotic songs composed within the mountains through the darkish days of the occupation.

Maubere Timor launched their first album in 2017, a choice of 12 songs that seize the preventing spirit of a resistance motion below an occupation that was to final 24 years and led to the loss of life of an estimated 200,000 East Timorese.

Greater than 20 years after the referendum for independence, and near 18 years because the nation was lastly declared free, Maubere Timor seeks to seize the state of the nation via its music.

Berliku recalled that regardless of the prolonged wrestle for independence, many in Timor-Leste have been ready to struggle longer.

“We thought it may very well be longer … we already knew it could be a protracted, arduous wrestle.”

Carrying the scars of survival

Remoted from the remainder of the world, life within the mountains was tough, with each day working battles with the occupying Indonesian forces.

Whereas Indonesian troopers have been very nicely geared up and had higher manpower, “tactically that they had loads to study. The principle downside they confronted was that they didn’t know the bottom [in the mountains] nicely.”

Throughout one battle, Berliku was shot 5 occasions. He was additionally wounded within the legs throughout a bombing raid.

He wears his scars with none explicit satisfaction or swagger, saying that, up within the mountains, it was essential to “simply survive”.

“Dwell or die, independence [was] the one reply. There [was] no different alternative.” 

By 1983, resistance chief Xanana Gusmao, who would later turn into the primary president of the unbiased Timor Leste, realised that it was going to be unimaginable to defeat the Indonesians by drive alone. So Gusmao, who has since returned to his outdated seat as prime minister, employed music to their trigger.

Songs of resistance

Named after a chook that sings each morning, Berliku was given the nickname by the resistance chief as a result of he favored to sing and compose songs throughout lulls in preventing.

Berliku was inspired to begin writing music and poems to be distributed among the many inhabitants, as he defined, in an effort to use “music or any instruments that we will get to struggle in opposition to the Indonesians”.

Up within the mountains, there have been no music studios, in order that they recorded on moveable tape recorders within the caves they have been dwelling in.

Maubere Timor

Berliku, left, with Timorese independence hero and present Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, centre, and fellow veteran, Maugade [Supplied/Al Jazeera]

“The goal on the time was to smuggle the music out of Timor to resistance overseas,” Berliku mentioned, “in an effort to encourage and educate individuals outdoors of Timor in addition to encourage the inhabitants all through the nation.”

Throughout this time, “we have been locked out, remoted. That was (former Indonesian president) Soeharto’s coverage on the time. He wished to isolate Timor.”

Berliku described feeling “deserted” by the remainder of the world and looking for refuge within the music that was a method to get the information of the Timorese wrestle to the world.

Singing as a free man

In 1990, Berliku was captured by Indonesian forces and jailed on a distant island, the place he might solely look on because the nation voted for independence in 1999.

He would return to Timor Leste in 2008, almost a decade after independence, with the assistance of the Crimson Cross. 

Maubere Timor

Berliku returned to Timor Leste in 2008 with the assistance of the Crimson Cross [Ali MC/Al Jazeera]

Throughout this time, his household again in Baucau thought he was lifeless and even made him a tomb.

In the present day, Berliku nonetheless sings, as a free man.

In 2014, a bunch of veterans assembled to report the patriotic songs written way back within the mountains, in an effort to seize the spirit of the resistance and to doc an vital a part of East Timorese historical past.

In addition to concert events in Australia, the band additionally tour Timor Leste, performing for schoolchildren, who give them a “good reception”.

“Our historical past, our resistance is sacred. And it is vital that [the young people] perceive that.”

“The younger era really feel happy with the previous and of our historical past, and it’s not going to be simple to overlook.”

Now 20 years because the referendum via which independence was lastly achieved, Berliku mentioned “peace and stability” for Timor Leste is crucial factor for the long run.

Given his expertise, does he resent Indonesia?

“It’s the previous however prefer it or not, it was the historical past – you can not deny the historical past. However sure, now we have to maneuver ahead.”

With one other album deliberate, Berliku mentioned he needs to “carry on taking part in”.

“It is not solely concerning the storytelling of the previous, but additionally for the way forward for the younger generations. To grasp concerning the previous but additionally the best way to promote improvement for the long run.”

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