It has been variously said that everybody dies twice, first when we have breathed our last breath, and second when our name is spoken for the very last time. The Malagasy people of Madagascar take this philosophy a step further, much further, with a centuries-old funerary tradition called Famadihana, otherwise known as “the turning of the bones”.
The ceremony entails the bringing forth of the bodies of the deceased from family crypts and rewrapping the corpses in fresh cloth bearing freshly rewritten names so as to always be remembered (and perhaps avoid mistaken identity). The corpses are then held high above their heads while dancing in celebration of their previous lives, before being returned to their tombs. The ritual is then repeated every seven years until the body has completely decomposed in the belief that only then will the spirit be released and allowed to join the ancestral afterlife.
“It’s been another seven years; it’s showing ’round the eyes.
Another seven years entombed in lethargy and lies.
But let’s dig out our old clothes and prepare for celebration.
I am The Son of Sleep, all I need’s an invitation.”
Not entirely dissimilarly, band Arab Strap would begin life in 1995, die in 2006 and be briefly “brought out and danced around” in 2011 and 2016, before finally declaring themselves as “back from the grave and ready to rave” in 2020. This latest resurrection would culminate in a sea change of sound in the release of album As Days Get Dark, from which “The Turning of Our Bones” would ultimately open.
An interweaving of rebirth and sexual innuendos permeates the track, metaphorically bouncing from one to the other and back, while being perhaps subconsciously self-referential. Bandmates Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton would more colorfully state, “‘The Turning of Our Bones’ is an incantation, a voodoo spell to raise the dead, inspired by the Famadihana ritual… in which they dance with the corpses of loved ones; it’s all about resurrection and shagging.”
“Let’s not be bashful, don’t be oblique.
The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak.”
The song, while a tale of the unsettled, sinisterly lumbers along to a steadily ticking heartbeat keeping time to vocal intonations, and a peppering of properly-evoked minor-instrumental flourishes. Its accompanying video appears as a dizzying conglomeration of B movie horror-flick snippets portraying varying stages of violence and dancing, with a generous side-helping of gruesome gore. Apparently, these long-forgotten films too have been remembered to be celebrated once more.
“The second life is calling – feel its pull, feel its tow!
So let’s live now before we’re back below.”
BANDCAMP | APPLE | SPOTIFY | FACEBOOK | LYRICS
LABEL: ROUGH TRADE
Beautiful HUMAN BONE ART cover by Francois Robert
10 thoughts on “Arab Strap ~ The Turning of Our Bones [2⊘2⊘]”
a very “intriguing” ritual and in your words, an equally intriguing and “gruesome gore” video😁
I too believe this has the highest Gore Rate (scientifically GPS or Gore Per Second) of any video I have yet to find, lol. Thanks for sharing, Destiny. 😁💀
You welcome 🤍
Bring on the gore, the more the better. 😁 I enjoyed both the song and video, and of course, your additional information on the band and song. The ritual, as Destiny commented, is intriguing. If I hadn’t already decided on cremation and my ashes scattered in a favorite place, this would be the way to do death. 😊🖤
Yep, cremation here as well. According to my research, even these people are starting to end the tradition. There are some that blame the continuance of the Black Plague on it, as well as other diseases. I agree with you though, and think it’s beautiful. Each family invites other families and the other families cover the costs in tribute, then when their turn comes round the money flows back to them.
Moffat said, “I was reading a book about death rituals, because that’s the sort of shitty books I like to read. [Laughs] The way people dispose of bodies and stuff. That one came up and it was fascinating. I think the belief is the soul doesn’t truly pass until the corpse is completely decayed, so you’re still within the carcass for a while. It’s every seven or 10 years they exhume the skeleton and hold it up high and dance around it and celebrate. It seemed like a really bizarre and macabre thing to do but also very sweet. I’m interested in ideas that challenge the way we think about death in the West.”
Thanks for sharing, jai. 🖤💀
I’m the same. I’ve had two relatives and one friend die from cancer in the last year or so, and was glad for them that their pain ended. And I wondered for each, what came next. I guess I’ll find out (or not, if there’s no “other side) someday. My closest sister has donated her remains to a body farm. She’s an organic gardener, and I think her choice is quite fitting for her. 🖤
Human compost or scientific research? How macabre… 🖤
Scientific research on body decomposition in the wild. She’d probably like to also think she’s giving back to Mother Nature. 🖤
Cool tune. His voice reminds me a bit of Serge Gainsbourg.
Interesting, I always felt more comfortable at funerals than weddings because we all seem on equal ground, mourning a loved one (whereas weddings can be pretentious, which is why I eloped and didn’t want to be a “here comes the bride” person).
About a year ago, a friend of a friend died, but he came to me in a dream. I asked a very spiritual friend why he came to me and not my friend, since they were like brother and sister. She said because my portal was open. I believe it is, as I don’t view death as the end, yet take it so seriously.
Someone once told me that I was a “bad friend” because I’m only there for people at funerals, and there are other important things in life. I thought that was a bad observation because death IS the most important thing in life. You’ll never see the person again, in the flesh, but you may (or may not) communicate with them in other forms. …. Anyway, sorry to “hijack” but this all brought plenty out of me. I guess that’s good I felt “safe” to share here. 🙂 (Oh, and cremation for me too, definitely! I had a spiritual mentor years ago who said the same thing, for the soul to get to the other side quicker).
Just checked out Serge; beautiful and soothing French spoken word. I love French and I love spoken word, so thank you for that!
I agree with you that death is the most important thing in life, though I might arguably include love. Both bring meaning to our existence by enhancement, one directly, the other indirectly. You obviously have a gift of spirituality that lends yourself to these experiences, whereas mine have been of a somewhat darker bent. As you implied, it seems likely in your deep reverence that you invite these sacred experiences upon yourself, these gifts. It’s my own form of cognitive dissonance that allows me to believe in these spiritual events and still be an atheist at heart. I also don’t believe there is a more important or more challenging way to bear witness to someone other than by attending their funeral and being supportive of their survivors. There is true love and beauty in that.
No hijacks; we appreciate you chiming in. Thank you for sharing, Maryanne. 🤗💀