Urtha....Poem of Paka Kayaw.

Urtha is a poem or music of the Pakake-yaw people. The contents of the Urtha reveal the way of life of the Pakake-yaw, their cultures and traditions, and the natural environment they live in. The older generations of the Pakake-yaw says There are many kinds of Urtha, more than the leave in the forest. Urtha is passed on from generations to generations. The Pakake-yaw can write the poems based on everything that they see.

Pati Jorni Odochao, an elder from the Nongtao village, tells about the origins of Urtha.

One Urtha tells of an incident during a funeral in the olden days, where many people attended it. At that time there was a woman carrying a tray on a pedestal to welcome the guests and at the same time, she was carrying her baby on her back. The weight was too heavy for her and she fell. The pedestal hit the people who sat around her, and someone made it into a song The pedestal, the pedestal, she hit this, she hit that. Many people heard this song and soon it was passed on to many people, including those who did not attend the funeral. Another Urtha that originated from a funeral tells the story of a mans journey to a funeral far away from his home. On his way to the funeral, he saw a turtle and he tied it to a tree before continuing his journey. He stayed there all night and the next morning; he said Sunshine, Sunshine, I must go to eat the turtle, which later became an Urtha too.
    The Pakake-yaw people can communicate with other people by writing songs inspired by the natural things to tell about their feelings
There are many kinds of Urtha such as those for funerals, marriages, religions, and for musical instruments for example the Thena and gwae, and verses for men and women. The earlier Urthas are mimicry of the sounds from nature such as the sounds made by birds, cicada, pigs, cows, and peacocks, or the sounds of bamboos hitting against each other, of a waterfall, or of a fish spring. The Pakake-yaws gain inspirations from the natural world for the Urtha music.
   When the Pakake-yaw people sing the Urtha poems, they resemble the sounds from nature. For example during funerals, the Urtha songs are sung with a sad voice, resembling the sound of a hornbill bird, an elephant, or the sound of an animal crying, to deplore the loss of a loved one. On the other hand, the Urtha songs sang during Pakake-yaw marriages are cheerful ones, resembling the laughter of animals.

In the beginning, the Pakake-yaws imitate the sounds of nature by using their voices to make music. When the hill tribe invented musical instruments, Urtha poems are sung with the company of the musical instruments, especially with the Thena.

Thena is a musical instrument of the Pakake-yaw, which is similar to the vina. The base of Thena is made from a log lumber and is light and perforated. The character is arched from the base to the top of Thena with strings running through. In the past, the Pakake-yaw used vine or rattan as the Thena strings. Now, copper or guitar strings are used instead.

The Pakake-yaw is a hill tribe and the people are peaceful and happy to stay close to the nature. The music played by the tribe, such as that of the Thena, is a good reflection of the disposition of the tribe.

The older Pakake-yaws often tell the story about Thena: in the past, the youths must have a Thena. It was the instrument often used by men to woo their sweethearts . The man would play the Thena and sing an Urtha song to his friends. One who cannot play the Thena and sing the Urtha songs would very likely remain as a single.

When the older generations narrate stories to the younger generations, they often make the moral of the stories into Urtha songs and sing them together with the Thena. This is their traditional way of relaying stories to the younger generations. The older Pakake-yaw can use all the things they see in their daily lives to sing a poet, and then they can relay to the younger to use in daily life and in the specials occasions like during their cultural ceremonies and festivals.


Pati Jorni Odochao also said that in the past, the Pakake-yaw communities lived close to nature. The children could hear the sounds of nature and learn about Urtha and the musical instruments. Now all the communities are more exposed to the outside world and the children are greatly affected. They learn other languages that enable them to communicate conveniently with the people from all other places. The introduction of modern technology such as electricity also contribute to the rapid loss of Pakake-yaw cultures and many children nowadays do not have a chance to learn about them.

The Urtha songs and the Thena music are valuable asserts which should be conserved because these are reflections of the way of life, thinking of the Phakake-yaw people.