Flautist, saxophonist, composer and band-leader, the late Zim Ngqawana, promoted the philosophies of Innertainment and Zimology.Zim Ngqawana came from a poor family in Port Elizabeth, did not finish High School, started as a singer for New Brighton township events, taught himself the flute, made the grades for music at Rhodes University and UKZN, trained with Max Roach and Winton Marsalis in Massachussetts University and became one of the foremost role-models to South African musicians. Zaide is a development worker and journeyed with Zim Ngqawana spiritually to give the space to realise himself through music.
In Africa, the music keeps us rooted. We grew up singing, we grew up chanting, we grew up being taught how to do the praise poetry. Music is forever in us. And how we express it and bring it out to the world addsthat unique flavour of who we are.
It is only in the moment – the NOW - does pure and uninhibited musical expression arise. For some they call this the muse. And when the musician is a channel for their muse, we are like a conduit – a rivulet of life’s ever flowing ideas. We are vehicles for the muse to act itself out. We keep our vehicle, the physical, the spiritual, the conscious and sub-conscious fine-tuned to communicate the expression of the muse. That is why it is said, music is an infinite thing, it is created and destroyed in the moment, each and every moment as it takes its form through the coherent synthesis of a series of moments that lead to a conscious response in both creator and the listener. Through music we realise there is something far greater than I. Through music we awaken to the inter-connectivity of all things. Everything is everything – categoric interconnectivity. Every aspect of your life is linked to the next – how you treat food – how you treat the next man – how you treat yourself first and foremost. The greater self is our infinite connection to the All. As they say no man is an island. So, the practice is in everything.
Zim Ngqawana deeply loved both the Western classical music of Beethoven and Mozart as well as the African classical music of the traditional Xhosa and Zulu and the Indian classical music. All of these sounds informed his musical palette. Zim was simply a tool of a higher being. The music as a vehicle for messages to come through.
What is your self-worth?
Zim Ngqawana played with many of the greatest musicians from the Eastern Cape. These musicians came from a story of struggle. Playing the instrument was part of their healing from struggle. Through playing - they lose themselves completely. One of the greats was drummer Lulu Gontsana, who learnt from listening and played from ear. Lulu couldn’t read music, Lulu learnt from listening. And Lulu learnt from feeling sound from the age of 7.
When Zim Ngqawana taught at UKZN he managed to push his students beyond their limits and bring the magic from out of them. Once a student asked him, “What did I get for my essay?” “What do you want for it?” Responded Zim. “60 or 70%,” said the student. “Why are you not saying 110%,” responded Zim.
Now, follow this task
1. Listen to the chants, prayers and meditations of any traditional diviners such as Sangomas, Christians, Muslims, Sufi’s, Hindus, Buddhists and Judaists. Which prayer music resonates with you? Meditate with this music – going to a place of stillness and silence and tell us what inspiration do you come up with? How does this inform your process of creation?
2. To go within and find that music within sometimes takes a baptism of fire. This baptism of fire is an outlet for the colour, expression and emotions of the soul. It is like a pressure stove. The only way to release your inner colour dystopic, is to go within. Think about this for a moment, now tell us, what is your golden nugget of creativity, what is that expression that is most relevant to you?
3. We know that music takes you to that place of inner stillness and silence and perfect focus, but what in the outside world takes you there? For some they find their place on the mountain, the inner city parks, or the furthest point of the ghetto where nobody ever goes. Where do you find your place of stillness, silence, peace and solace?
We are always spiritual partners on this journey. We belong to each other. We are not alone. We belong to the universe. We belong to all of sound and we belong to all of colour.
What inspires the inner voice are all the teachings of great masters we meet along the way. Their words of wisdom, metaphors and motto’s to live by, help us to switch off the ego: that part of the mind that goes – me mememe – and wants to take all the credit. The ego is a block. If you are going to be bashful and shy or if you are going want to own it, you won’t release that expression. It is when we are ready to let go of the ego and let go of all the qualms and frustrations, we are ready for the tone and the tune of our inner voice to come through. It is almost like being in another state – a state of no-mind. This is the when inspiration comes – and it comes from the muse.
One of our greatest masters or very best friends on the musical journey is the musical instrument. For many great musicians, the journey is to become one with their instrument. You have to imbue the instrument with your spirit and allow the spirit of the instrument to imbue you with its musicality. We achieve this by spending time and putting in effort. To live breathe and be with your instrument is like having a friend. The relationship goes cold if you don’t spend time together.
What is your philosophy?
We are always spiritual partners on this journey. We belong to each other. We are not alone. We belong to the universe. We belong to all of sound and we belong to all of colour. This is a Hindu philosophy. Zimology was and still is the personal philosophy of Zim Ngqawana.
Like any personal philosophy it comes from that point of singularity – going within to a place of stillness and silence. It is only through the silence that you can listen, get to know yourself. And it is through the silence that you can give up yourself.
By going within to that space of silence, you may look at yourself and understand yourself. The knowledge of the self is required to actualise the self and lose the self. It is only in silence that you get to know yourself, love yourself and acknowledge yourself in order to free yourself.
What is meditation? Meditation is only a deep awareness. That is all that it is. Meditation is not a big profound thing. You are meditating through an absolute consciousness of every moment.
Meditation contributes to so many facets of life. The role of meditation for the musician is simply to contribute towards your creations. There are hundreds of methodologies for teaching meditation. Meditation has so many expressions. Meditation has a calming effect. It shows, like a drop is to the ocean, so we are all just part of life, a part of the whole.
Now answers these questions
1. Zim’s San Song is dedicated to the Khoi San, Vadzimu to the Zimbabwean deities and Qula kwedini/Amageza aseBofolo to his Xhosa ancestry. Choose one of these cultural dedications, choose a song you like and improvise with it?
2. Mentorship is about providing the space for somebody to be realising him or herself within the genre of the expression. It is to give leadership but also to give space to realise themselves through the music. Do you have a mentor and what have you learnt with your mentor?
3. Do you have a musical chant / prayer or meditation that you practice? Share this with us?
4. What is your space in life and spirituality? What therefore, is your philosophy – the you in you-ology?