One of my happiest memories of the Tanimbar islands, back in the mid 1990s, is the night I spent in the village of Alusi Krawain, dancing with my hosts to the sound of Tom Waits singing the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard. Back then, the villages in Tanimbar had no electricity, but I had a tiny, battery-operated cassette recorder, and a single cassette of Tom Waits songs. My host, the terrifyingly capable Ibu Lin, asked if I had any music, so I put on Tom’s Blue Valentine. Ibu Lin was immediately hooked. ‘Let’s dance,’ she said, getting to her feet.
Entertainments in Alusi Krawain were few, so the spectacle of a dancing foreigner attracted all the neighbours. The visitors crammed themselves into the house of my host, and cheered us on. Ibu Lin turned out to be an exceptional dancer, and I struggled to keep pace.
You can read about all of this is my new book, Stealing with the Eyes: Imaginings and Incantations in Indonesia. But if you want to read an extract from the book about precarious sea-voyages, witchcraft (“I’ve only come to Baton Rouge”, Tom sings, “to find myself a witch”), and the unexpected feeling of being at home, then head on over to today’s update from the Asian Review of Books.