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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #353
ShavedHeadBangBoondock
David Gunn

Over the last 650 years, except for an unexplained two-week period in 1922, the Zontaru Indian collective of southernmost Belize has cultivated three peculiar traits which have been embraced by modern popular culture.
   [1] Shaved heads: To better accommodate the indians' traditional tight-fitting bonnets, the women of the tribe have their heads shorn. But they don't do so with razors, knives or other sharp implements. They do it with teeth. Each indian girl who seeks to enter adulthood must first visit the oldest female member of the tribe, called Nibble Woman, who scrupulously bites off their scalp hair. (The abundant facial hair, on the other hand, is groomed and shellacked to entice suitors.) Every three weeks thereafter for ten full-moons, the girl returns to Nibble Woman, who dutifully gnaws off any stubble. It cannot be a pleasant experience for either gnawer or gnawee because both parties shun eye contact during the entire process. Even during Panoonba, a hypersocial event of nonstop bacchanalia that lasts from December through March, neither person acknowledges the other, except as a target for the ambergris pie toss. By the end of the tenth moon cycle, the scalp hair, probably too disgusted with the whole process to endure it any longer, ceases growing. By contrast, that of the noses and ear is often profuse enough to weave into doilies. Tribal elders present the girl with a small basket of toiletries and declare her a fully fledged woman. Because of the relatively small Zontaru Indian population, Nibble Woman's is but a part-time profession. During slack womanhooding times, she keeps sharp by applying her talents to the heads of chickens, a practice discovered and copied by carnival geeks during that previously mentioned two-week interval in 1922.
   [2] Boondocking: Tribal real estate developers go to various collective villages and turn state-of-the-art housing projects into rustic little shantytowns with only primitive amenities. Their aim is to create a Belizian "Colonial Williamstown," where tourists can observe the indians as they might have existed hundreds of years ago. Intricate hunter-gatherer dramas involving small baskets of toiletries are played out by performers in traditional titanium jerkins. The lengthy journey to Belize by seven members of Clan Wingate in the penultimate year of the Late Archaic Period, including the treacherous trek across a spongy-white blancmangelike Gulf du Mexico bog, is reenacted as a kind of cabaret. Even the dubious story of the collective's 1922 visit by hyperintelligent space leopards is given a metaphorical miming. A small but vocal contingent of Zontaru, notably those who are in their homes during the disabodement process, object to what they term regressive recontextualization. They argue that a booming tourism industry does not make up for their own domicile displacement, plus it subverts the collective’s unified goal of progressive illusionism. Again, modern culture has usurped the term, if not the concept. Nowadays, boondocking refers to an outdoor phenomenon where recreational vehicles camp for free in large chain store parking lots for days at a time while their drivers attend professional geeking seminars and mime dismembership training.
   [3] Headbanging: The word today refers to a style of rock music that features loud electric guitars and drums playing repetitive motifs with few chord changes; compositional constructs are typically limited to yes or no intuitions. But according to Zontaru craniomusicologists, until about 80 years ago, headbanging represented a comparatively sedate type of Belizian music. During Panoonba, a group of up to 30 indians, including many with shorn heads, sat next to one another in a circle facing outward. Inside the circle, tribal musicians with mallets made from the autochthonous coat trees beat rhythmic tattoos on various pates, which were made hyperresonant by the bacchanalian diet of ambergris pie. The term headbanging term didn't derive from the music that ensued, because the indians' heads were hit gently, not banged. Rather, it was a result of the fervor into which the musicians fell. So involved did they become with their percussive assaults that they often lost track of their fellow drummers, and ran headlong into them, bashing and banging their own heads. It was the absence of conscious musicians that usually concluded the performance. That concept, too, has been usurped by modern headbangers.

Today's 353rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar features all three Zontaru collective traits: it headbangs, it boondocks, it shears the hair right off your head. And that's just for starters. And bunching it all up into a context that even an ambergrissed space leopard might enjoy is Kalvos.