United Colours of Africa
                                                                                                   

The Bushmen of the Kalahari
The oldest living trace of music

Bushmen of the Kalahari album review


In the liner notes Dick Jewell writes a history of bushmen names. He writes, “the colonialists were by and large responsible for the destruction of Khoisan culture and the homogenizing of the many San and Khoi groups including the //Xam, the //Xegui, the /Aiuna = Khomani, the !Xo, the Zulihoasi, the Hai//om, the Nharo, the Heitshware, the g/wi, the !kung and many others into a single group.

Some questions arise from the perusal of this CD, namely “proceeds of the sale of this CD will feed a child in the Kalahari?” How many, how long? All songs are published by Kalamazoo which begs the question. Some of this songs are traditional and thereby immune to publishing exploitation. Other songs are clearly the original work of !gubi.

Track 1 and 12 are from the traditional hunting song called XAN DO DO. It is sung whilst doing the trance dance, a meditation and an ancestral communion.

On tracks 2, 3 and 4 called “Nxa,” !Gubi and Anna make the animal sounds, like the wild dog … “Anna kneels and places one end of a bow, about a meter and a half long, against her chest, and holding it in line with her body beats a tempo with the other end against an empty five litre oil can on the sand in front of her. Simultaneously, !Gubi strikes the bow with a stick to a different beat.” These people are the great hunters of the Kalaharai.

On track 5 !Gubi plays the //gwashi or !Gauka. This is a bow with the resonator made from an empty oil can with four curved wooden tuning rods fixed to the far end. Wire strings are secured to the rods and attached to the other end of the resonator.

On track 6 !Gubi plays the !Gabus mouthbow. Through music he feeds himself and his family.

Track 8 is a traditional dance for young girls that resembles the catching of a chameleon. It is a hypnotic dance.

Track 9 is “lekker lekker” and is an energetic traditional dance with ankle rattles and foot stamping.

Track 10 is a trance dance, but a “healing dance” taking the singers and dancers into a state of !kia, a trance state of letting go, non attachment and one-ness with GOD or //gauwa

Track 11 is the clapping and chanting of a traditional game played by Bakgalagadi girls.

On Track 13 a state of trance can be obtained through the hypnotic melody played on the //gweshi.

On track 14 !Gubi plays the song of the shepherd on his Segankuru (bow). And on track 17 he sings a sad song.

The mouthbow on track 15 has the hypnotic effect of putting the bees into a state of trance so the elder, !gubi can collect the honey.

Track 16 expresses the trance of the medicine women.

Sanscapes album review


The Bushmen of the Kalahari are also known as the Khoisan of Namibia. Under this title they present the blend of modern and ancient in a series called Sanscapes.

We learnt of the origin of the word San in the liner notes of the Bushmen of the Kalahari CD.” Dr Theophilus Hahn Said the Hottentots called the Bushmen San (pl_, singular Sab, from the root, Sa, to be settled, to dwell, to be located, to be great. Durnan wrote the word San has also acquired a low meaning and is not considered to be very complimentary. The colonialists called the San the Bushmen…”

Sanscapes is a remix project with a social consciousness… “The disruptions to the indigenous culture caused by land and resource dispossession make it impossible for the community to uphold its traditional, consensual decision making processes. Their egalitarian social structure that is an inspiration to so many is now under threat.”

The recordings from the Bushmen of the Kalahari, or Khoisan of the Namib were the inspiration for Sanscapes Volume One. Hattie Wells writes, “The San Bushmen – the indigenous people of the Southern African region are Africa's oldest inhabitants having lived in the region for approximately 20 000 years. For them, music and dance are not merely creative expressions, but an integral part of their being. The San are renowned for their medicine dance, in which they use rhythm to heal both the individual and the collective. The medicine men have a supernatural potency within them called N/UM that enables them to cure sickness. To activate this substance they dance and sing, creating sounds and a tempo that heats the N/UM causing it to rise up to the top of their heads and enable trance.”

I think she is talking about activating the kundalini?

13 different DJ's were called in to remix 13 different tracks, some of which were traditional Bushmen compositions. The producers have added a lot of imagination to this album showing the deep bushmen influence on what they have created, however we lose the essence of the bushmen of the Kalahari in the midst of heavily computerized dance patterns. By track 6 there is not much left to showcase this as a Bushmen inspired CD, other than the sampling of a mouthbow, foot stamp, clap or scream. Without the original buildup of the delicate polyrythms and ostinato's of the traditional Bushmen music and without the delicate musical exchange with the played traditional instruments there is no trance, internal or external. Trance is created in modern society through heavy chemical intoxicants. It is an electronic trance that ties one into an electronic matrix. Instrumental trance such as created by the Khoisan was a natural and organic music. Therefore the remix project in this sense has put the cart before the horse and is therefore more pretentious than organic and more aspirant than free. Yet, it remains a powerful intention to integrate modern and ancient and bring the medicine wheel full circle.

Track 7, “Tribal Chess” is a straight up drum and base and the samples are largely generic with a single Khoisan chant used at the end of every time cycle.

For one to hear the music and the splintering multiple polyrhythms, harmonics and overtones of the indigenous music is not easy. It is not re-created, merely enhanced by the production. The song fades out.

Track 8 cry of the Bushmen is a disco remix. The producer takes a long lead up introducing his rhythm, then he adds his chosen rhythmic sample and then a 4 note repetition keyboard loop and then a percussion loop and so the disco mix gets busier. Cry of the Bushmen could be a proverbial title, for the Bushmen have indeed been silenced in this remix! The song fade s out to the sound of birds tweeting and then a deep house electronica. This song is purely instrumental, clearly arranged on a computer with timelines and a completely generic remix.

Track 9 immediately presents a new consciousness as it starts with unadulterated musical clips of clapping and singing. This is then interspersed with soundscapes before a lovely Khoisan rhythmical ostinato is played out on the bow. The production of the song follows the authentic and intended path of the original musicians. Hats off to this producer, SMADJ. He then begins to express his ancient leanings as he adds musical improvisation of an Eastern origin to meet with a variety of original Khoisan statements making for a very busy musical landscape where Smadj's ever present musicality is audible through the minor musical melodies expressed in a variety of deeply antiquated musical instrumental sounds (or sampled styles). The Khoisan violin is heard, the chants, the clapping. There is space for all expression in this exciting remix. Indigenous samples exchange pleasantries with programmed improvisation and there is space for the elder !Gubi to close the song .

In an ambient sign of respect for the heavy ancestory and transformative nature of the music, track 10 starts where 9 left off, at the feet of the Khoisan music, as the producer uses the music as the ingredients of his musical food which he creates. Vastly superior I suppose to the first 8 tracks where the producer consumed the musical food of the indigenous music and let it out the other side in generic remixes. Track 10 is held together by clapping and chanting whilst the programmed beats form around them like blankets around an important body. Live percussion keeps a steady pace throughout the song.

Track 11 sounds like a generically produced quickstep that is rising out of a drum ‘n base influence and is propped up by the Bushmen sample added at the end of every time cycle. Interesting electronics give it an industrial sound on the keyboard setting. Khoisan voices speaking their musical language and the sampled singing and clapping give an otherwise generic effort an indigenous appeal. This song titled ‘Celebration Mix,' fades out in a morass of over production. The producer calls himself ‘Medicine Man.' This is the irony that has replaced honesty.

Track 12 is immediately more intense as the producer sets the tone. Looped clapping creates an anthemic rhythmical passage as the producer adds to the rhythm with passing melodic phrases. The song is quick to go nowhere, adding in the sampled bird sounds Pops Mohammed used in his album and the same chant one of the earlier producers used. This is at least an extended version with nice chord changes. The influences on the musical tone marries impressively with the sadness of the musical message that !Gubi sings out. A very musical remix, well crafted. Hats off, Bob Holroyd, who adds a strong coat to the music with his sample and continuous three note ostinato played on the keyboard and backed up electronically with the sound of an ancient violin.

The album closes with the astonishingly well researched poem by Zena Edwards. This poem closed the Bushmen of the Kalahari CD too.

Khoisan – Ultra Africa by Zena Edwards

“Bring me water because I am thirsty for humanity
Come carry me the Bushmen story
Let me drink the Khoisan mystery
The elixir of the Ultra-African
45 000 years of homo sapien sapien
A bloodline millennia strong

Whose ears are attuned to the desert silence
A silence where the four winds rest
Imbued with the voices of the moon, the sun and the stars.

In the East echoes the cockerels crow
over the Kalahari plains.
Summoning the San sun to rise and chase the starts into tomorrow.
In the South the rain sorceress strikes his mouth bow
And the polyphonic tones
Hypnotise the clouds to drop their precious liquid load.

In the North the hunter waits with patience as wide as the lands vastness
where the lions and the eland run.
Where the hunter gatherer has love affair with the veldkos
His presence melts with the long grass shrub and sand.

Glowing ashes thrown into the sky
become the milky way and the moon
a hunters moon illuminate the eyes of a springbok.

Alert my eyes with the ancients other worldliness of their clicking tongue
The wind crackling and rustling the dry silver leaf on decrepit trees
Hot rock and sand grain rubbing sand
These sands pass between their lips.

In the West dance silhouettes of small bodies housing large hearts
And the cosmic sense of one-ness
A cow yawns and a skinny dog barks and a fir flickers
A fire that induces the birth of stories about the master, the trickster and the hero
Chants and songs. Chants and songs.
Notes in a strange and peculiar combination escape their throats
A joyful noise to their creator that still remembered them.
They dance.
Yodels and circle songs reach a fervent peak.
And the stars begin to fall.
A jerk in the jugular string.
Umbilical anchor to the universal mind.
Brings a trance

Khoisan is lead by the hand of the ancient to the realms of the forebears
Become stars and sit to the left of Sirius.”

What ancient to future wonder is this?

iGub! white lion shaman

Lianne Cox has released a documentary entitled ‘!Gubi'. !Gubi is the name of a bushmen elder and it is heart wrenching as it journey's the viewer into the heart of the abundance of the ancient people where a bright light of bliss and blight flickers in these survival times. . .

There is a bushmen family from the Kalahari still living. The oldest man
is !Gubi. He is one of the survivors of a profound tale in how humanity can live one with nature and one with themselves. Lianne Cox has made a documentary film about him and his family.

!Gubi is one of the last remaining lion shamans. He dances for hours in a circle around the small fire. In the dance the !Num, the spiritual energy boils within the dancers belly and bursts forth at the point of Kia. Kia is an altered state of consciousness that links the dancer to the universal life force. This energy state has for long been used to access the spirit world, to bring rain, to control animals but most of all to bring healing.

In the documentary Lianne Cox narrates: "On my journey I found we are the mystery of God manifesting all that it is. There is no self and there is no other. No subject and object. All is one. With this realisation we find ourselves no longer separate from others or indeed with anything we dissolve into mystical communion. We are in love with all beings. With this wisdom one enters into the trance and becomes the trance dancer.”

As we come face to face with the breath taking natural scenery of the Namib and the Kalahari we come face to face with the communities, families, leaders, healers, musicians and children of the Bushmen people and their lifestyle at one with the animals and plants of their environment. We see how their children grow completely at one with dance and celebration and therefore one with themselves.

The practice of uBuntu, is seen in the participative gatherings of the bushmen people. They are at one, one with themselves, our earth and our cosmos. Together they play with rhythm and melody to male music. When this music is expressed it finds itself in harmonic resonance with the all, an energetic whole humming in harmonic vibrations of light, life and love. This experience transcends the materiality of the earth existence where modern society has taken advantage of Mother Nature.

Ananda (her husband) enjoyed very much a French film, BlueBerry directed by Jan Krounan. The battle scene is extraordinary: the Antagonist and Protagonist had pursued and chased one another throughout the film only to land at the feet of a Red Indian Holy Man in the deepest canyons of the desert region.

It is here that the holy man humbly administers them with a healing concoction of some deep significance. The two men promptly fall into the unconscious where their awareness travels into the infinite bounds of the spirit world. Here the spirit does battle within and of itself to a point of resolution. And thus through the power of cinema we see an almost tangible impression of a world or a reality that exists beyond our 3 dimensional impressions of human existence. We enter a portal of understanding of the spirit world.


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