Invocations from Indigenous Music Performance

Yesterday, I went to see Umrhube (indigenous music) performance featured in the Grahamstown’ annual arts festival. The performance was great! However, the patriot in me thinks Basotho are better. This of course is debatable but is absolutely besides the point.

The point I wish to make is that the perfomance invoked thoughts of what ‘indigenous’ means and how much of what can be regarded as indigenous information an/or knowledge is documented. I am not really sure of the answer but since I appreciate that most of this information is passed on from one generation to the next orally, I thought it would be worthwhile to challenge myself by embarking on a journey that takes me to the roots of my origins. I will begin this journey by using Umrhube’ performance. The group dressed in colourful attire and each member dressed according to their own individual style and taste. The women in particular although danced standing reminded me of the Batlokoa women.

Batlokoa women like women from other clans (in Lesotho) dance on their knees. The only difference is that they don’t just move their upper body, they literally lift their knees much like men lift their legs. You can just imagine the effort; especially in making all believe that the elagance and beauty of the dance comes without effort! To those who understand the Batlokoa this is not surprising since defiance is one quality that can be associated with the clan. Thus, the dance itself can be viewed as an act of defiance, with women saying: ‘if you think as women we need to kneel then we shall! But we will do exactly what men do!’

Other than the dancing, the performance made me think of the role of music in general to culture. To me, it seems that we sing through it all. We sing when we are happy, sad, uncertain, bored, etc. So indeed music might be the food of the soul and through music we might just return to our roots.


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