Sisiit (ish-kish)


Sisiit is the most popular dance among the Blin community. It is conducted in anti-clockwise movement in a circle of both males and females, with females playing the Kelembura (Kelembura, drum)) and males often striking two sticks against each other (if available) the sound of which combine with the rhythmic movement and lyrics (wetter). Songs are sung in two groups, one group leading and the other following the suit, until the current lyric is changed. A lyric is often changed after a longer movement is followed by a shortened one, usually three times. During the shortened movement, the circular movement is replaced by pairs facing each other, appearing as if one encircles the other, and at times lowering down the body or their knees, and hastening the body movements in unison with the drum beats. Often the pairs face each other in a manner that does not lead direct to eye-to-eye contact, pretending that they do not imitate each other and yet coordinating each other’s patterned movement. The main focus is on the performance and the sound, with assumed audience watching them. Although direct eye contact is not the main focus, the pair may look at each other for a short period of time, and then change. But this description is too simplistic for generalization, because the artistic performance may also include the extent to which the paired dancers are acquainted to each other. From their experience, any two dancers during the short, rhythmic movement may establish specific dancing skills.


Any lyric (wetter) is initiated by one of the dancers while the rest follows him or her. The two singing groups moving in the circle sing once a time, while the other half or equivalent is silent and then repeat after the other group ends singing. There are two speed movements, slow and heated. During the slow movement, the whole song is sung and the movements get less slower, and only the last half of the lyric is repeated on turn by the two groups. During the hastened moment, the movement is shortened, each dancer turning to the other beside him or her, and encircling each other, synchronizing their movements and  the songs, with the Kelembura (drum)) and the ish-kish sound, the mouthpiece (fam-fam), and sound of the two sticks played by boys who strike  against each other in rhythmic style.


Who can play it? All age groups can play Sisiit and it takes as much time as the dancers would like to play. Every dance occasion usually starts with Sisiit,  followed often by Golia (see below) and Wessomia (or Wad Somia). In a typical festive occasion, young men and women may stay dancing Sisiit for almost half of a night, a day or any other time period. Most often, female elders do not participate in youngsters’ Sisiit due to two reasons: Sisiit is said to have been diffused widely only for the last 60 to 70 years and most elders may not play it as enthusiastically as the younger generations. The classical Blin dance is Golia, and it was Golia that was prevalent until the 1950s, since memorial times in Blin Society. The other reason may be that male and female adults (elders) have a different way of songs during important festive events and that is why Sisiit is supposed to be mainly a domain for youngsters, especially for unmarried boys and girls for whom Sisiit constitutes a formal conversation of what is going on amongst them, in their social surroundings, or elsewhere. Adult male elders instead sing what is called Awle during weddings, while adult female elders often play women’s Sisiit (ekwina-Sisiit). Moreover, female elders have the right to play their own drum (Kelembura) even if it is often youngsters who own it. Female married women playing ground should, however, be inside a house during wedding occasions; adult males may also join them especially those cohorts from a previous generation who had played as youngsters together.


Sisiit is played in all festive occasions and events, such as the Christmas, the whole week or two following the Easter Sunday, the first new year of the Julian calendar, combined with qdus yohanns feast (yaxeni) in September 10, during weddings, honeymoon week, etc. In general, Sisiit is played during religious, cultural, and political and other social events marking the importance of the event. The meanings of the lyrics may also depend upon the purpose of the event. In ordinary, cultural events, the meaning may be relating to individual, group or societal conduct, often commenting, criticizing, praising or appreciating behavior as bad or good, right or wrong, and most often suggesting for corrective measures, or what has to be done in the future. The norms and values of the community are underlined as the accepted patterns that all people, especially the youngsters should follow. Both Golia and Sisiit are supposed to be ‘schools’ in themselves, as far as they constitute socialization of youngsters into the social fabric of the community, and also spreading the news of what is going on within or outside the particular community, including comments on the ongoing political, religious, or any other events. Most of the lyrics take methodical or even symbolic connotations whose meaning can only be understood within the context in which the lyric is being said and the dance is being played. Adult women may often repeat old days lyrics particular to their youth times, or may repeat what the youngsters are singing for the occasion. The most traditional lyrics are said by adult women while adult males may often withdraw to their due elderly domain of Awle or simply find themselves where they should during the formal occasion, which is in the festivity locality, also called the das.


The paramount dancing instrument is the ever-existing Kelembura (the drum) in all dance types and genres among the Blin. In Sisiit, females have the prerogative to play the Kelembura as other females clap their hands. Boys often beat two sticks against each other in a rhythmic sound in unison with the drum, the song and the clapping of the hands. Even those who stay in the circle but are not moving along the inner anti-clockwise movements are expected to participate by singing and clapping their hands in unison.