Such stories were traditionally told by the elders in a highly formal version of Aka that the young did not yet understand and according to certain rules, among them this: Once an elder begins telling a story, he cannot stop until the story is finished. As with linguistic literacy, disruption is disaster. Yet Aka’s young people no longer follow their elders in learning the formal version of the language and the stories that have governed daily life. Even in this remote region, young people are seduced away from their mother tongue by Hindi on the television and English in the schools. Today Aka’s speakers number fewer than 2,000, few enough to put it on the endangered list.
Their debut performance took place in March 2001 on a makeshift stage outside 109, a tall shiny department store in Shibuya that, for a few million of Japan’s teenage girls, is the most stylish, most important, and most exciting place in the world. The girls in the band, like every girl in every magazine that season, had light cedar tresses, denim skirts, and tight tops with vintage sports lettering (no doubt all of it was for sale inside). They wheeled their kids out in strollers, all in a line. Then they started to sing. "Pada Pada mama, Pada Pada mama."