Tribal Music in Southern Africa

08.19.2008 The first known musicians in Africa were the San people, of regions which later became South Africa and Southern Botswana, whose language is filled with unusual click sounds and who produced a variety of musical instruments. As western cultures came to settle, music types were mixed to create the African sounds of today. The original music was not lost, however, and each 'tribe' in Africa still has its own musical history and sounds. Namibia has a rich ethnic diversity and cultural heritage. One of the most distinct ethnic groups are the Himba, semi-nomads who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are tall and slender; the women especially are noted for their intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their skin with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skin against the harsh desert climate. One of their most interesting rituals is that of "okoruwo" (fire ritual). The fire provides contact between the living and the dead. It is kept alive until the death of the headman. When this happens, his hut and the fire is destroyed and his family dance in mourning throughout the night. Later a fresh mopane tree is lit from the embers of the old fire. The Skeleton Coast Park is one of our planet's most inhospitable yet hauntingly beautiful places and the Skeleton Coast Camp offers activities that may include a visit to Himba "kraals", but it's subject to their movements, since they are a nomadic tribe. Serra Cafema Camp is an unexpected oasis of comfort and sumptuous spaciousness perched on the Kunene River. The camp is often visited by the native Ovahimba families, which gives guests the opportunity to learn about their lifestyle and traditions. The beautiful Kwa-Zulu Natel region of eastern South Africa is home to the proud Zulu warriors. There are two distinctive styles of Zulu music; Maskanda and Isicathamiya. Maskanda is the music of a man walking the long miles to court a bride or to meet with his Chief; a means of transport. It is the music of the man who sings of his real life experiences, his daily joys and sorrows, his observations of the world. It's the music of the man who has the Zulu blues. Isicathamiya is a beautiful musical form which gained international recognition through Ladysmith Black Mambazo's collaboration with Paul Simon. Isicathamiya may be best described as a male choir led by a main singer, who is generally also the composer of the songs they sing. The form works on call and response. Guests at Thanda Private Game Reserve in the northern Zululand have the opportunity of a wonderful introduction to Zulu culture. What's unique is the Vula Zulu experience, a traditional homestead showcasing Zulu culture, situated adjacent to Thanda. The highlight here is the immensely powerful traditional Impi dancing, where warriors perform age-old dancing rites as was done pre- and post-battle with King Shaka Zulu.