Sunday, December 23, 2012


Like most African countries, music education and music in general is such an integrated part of their culture that it’s hard to separate music from its society. Most of the Tswana folk music is vocal music without the use of drums (somewhat rare for African music), but it does make use of stringed instruments in a lot of its music. The guitar has become popular in Tswana folk music in recent decades, overtaking the traditional segaba, although it is making a comeback. The segaba is a one-stringed instrument with a metal resonator on the end, some of which looks like old cans attached to the wooden base (reminding me of the township art mentioned in my last post). It’s played by striking the string with another wire attached to a wooden handle and sounds like a beginning violin player.

Kwaito music is a genre of music that originated out of Johannesburg, South Africa and has become really popular in nearby Botswana. A lot of South African culture has made its way across the border, but that’s probably to be expected, seeing how Johannesburg is roughly a five-hour drive from Gaborone. To me, there are elements of American hip-hop and of Caribbean dancehall.  It's kind of catchy. I like it. 

An African style of rhumba that originated in Central Africa is called kwasa kwasa, a style that is slightly slower than rhumba (that actually is an Afro-Cuban form of music). Since it’s really hard to separate a lot of music styles with corresponding dances, kwasa kwasa has a simpler foot movement and more erotic movements as well. Some artists like Vee sped it up a little and created the style known as kwaito kwasa, making it a new dance form. The piece I put here is one of Vee's pices as an example of kwaito kwasa. I like this piece, although I think it would be great if someone took this and mixed it as a house beat.  

Rock music and hard rock music are becoming more popular in Botswana. Because of the younger generation’s access to the Internet and television stations like MTV, rock has gained popularity in recent years. Hip-hop is also highly popular with influences from the United States, Europe, and the rest of Africa. Likewise, African and Caribbean reggae is also highly popular as well. Fortunately, there were a lot of artists listed on Wikipedia; but unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of available music on Spotify. (I’m not really happy with Spotify lately; I may switch over and try Pandora.)  

Dance in Botswana is not just merely for entertainment; many times, it served a purpose. The traditional dances of Botswana are often used to pass on stories and for healing ceremonies. It’s often expressive and rhythmic. Different regions certainly have their own dances as there are different dances for different purposes, but some of the more popular ones come from the San or Bushman.

One of the healing dances involves having the sick person lie down next to a fire while the dancers dance and sing and clap around the sick person. The dance starts out slowly and gradually gets faster, at times stopping to assess the health of the sick individual, only to start back up on the dance. It always starts in the evening and can last anywhere from 3-8 hours. This video is a little long, but it's a really good look into the San bushmen way of life and the healing dance. It's also a good example to hear spoken "click" language. 

The other important dance serves two purposes for two different groups of people. For the Sarwa peoples, the dance is to celebrate good hunts, however the Tswana people use it as a rain dance. The Setswana word for rain is pula, which also happens to be the motto of Botswana as well as the term for their currency.  (When I was in high school, my friend and I who were both part of the mellophone section in marching band devised rain dances in order for us to take breaks. Weirdly enough, it worked almost every time within an hour of doing the dance. One time we did it really quickly and caused a tornado watch a few hours later. We were sort of famous. Sort of.)

Up next: the food!

No comments:

Post a Comment