Posts Tagged ‘African Music Blog’
by Jessica Rich
In this African Music Blog post, Samite shares his experiences from his most recent trip to Uganda in May 2010.
First, it is important to provide a brief introduction to the most recent political situation in the region. Over the past several years, the Acholi people of Northern Uganda have emerged wounded, but not broken, from a violent rebel movement led by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The goal of Kony, a self-described religious prophet, is to restore the Ugandan Constitution with the Ten Commandments, an effort that he directs by weakening the will of the Acholi, devastating their homes and their families.
In the past two decades, according to the Enough Project, Kony’s army “has abducted as many as 40,000 children, forcing them to serve as soldiers, porters, or sex slaves.” Many children, who will have witnessed the brutality with which the LRA ravaged their villages, were orphaned and taken to protected camps for internally displaced people (IDP). While the LRA’s influence in the region has waned since 2006, due to the Ugandan government’s efforts to restore stability, the group’s violence has left many children and adults with horrific memories and few resources with which to cope.
This past spring, Samite traveled to Kampala, Uganda on behalf of his organization, Musicians for World Harmony, which was developed, as Samite states, “to bring joy and healing to war-torn areas.” The trip was coordinated with help from the Soroti-based agency, Action Against Child Abuse and Neglect (AACAN). Working with children of war is a rewarding yet complex undertaking. Despite international humanitarian efforts in places like Northern Uganda, Samite has seen that child soldiers are often ignored. “I feel like they need a voice. Their childhood is stolen [and] they need to be taken care of.”
During Samite’s most recent trip, he partnered with Maurice Kirya, a Uganda-based musician. In keeping with the African tradition of healing communities through the power of music, Samite and Maurice worked with former child soldiers to provide them with an artistic outlet through which to recover from the trauma of war. Samite and Maurice met with three young men, Mercy, Phillip and Justin, in hopes of bringing another form of healing to their world with music. The musicians introduced different instruments to the group, including the guitar, as well as traditional African instruments such as the finger harp (or kalimba).
In our next post, the African Music Blog will share the music that Samite and Maurice created with these three young men.
This African music blog presents a brief history of the rich culture of Africa and the music that now enjoys a worldwide following.
With one thousand native languages, it’s no surprise the history of African music is a patchwork tapestry of oral history passed down from one generation to another. It is a western sensibility that attempts to catalogue and organize African music which is known under several categories such as global music, African music and world music.
Many scholars who studied African music are sensitive to the culture and to misunderstanding about its value. Hugh Tracy from South African, Mngoma of South Africa and Makabuya of Uganda are concerned about the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of African culture by those who stereotype this intriguing country.
It is interesting to note that unlike western cultures, music and dance in Africa are not isolated as separate activities from the normal culture. There are words that describe the particular acts of playing an instrument, singing and dancing, but they are largely seen as part of the broader text of communication that existed for centuries.
Dance and music go hand in hand in Africa. Beginning at birth and continuing in ceremonies to name the child, to initiation ceremonies, farming activities, war declarations, religious services and finally, honoring the dead, music and dance are so intertwined that many African cultures do not have words that define music and dance.
For this reason some scholars, like Ndlovu believe that writing African music damages the integrity of the art form. They assert there is no need to put African dance and music into words because it is purely a western tradition. In fact, it dilutes the authenticity of traditional African art forms.
The one exception to this is African choral music which translates well into western documentation. Whatever your taste, the information in an African music blog will likely sharpen your knowledge of this wonderful art form.
We share with you another message from Samite on the African Music Blog, in answer to a question asked about the music that he personally listens to.
“I am often asked what kind of music I enjoy listening to and what music inspires me. My taste is broad and varied because the music I listen to depends on the mood that I am in.
However, there is one group of musicians that I can listen to anytime – no matter where I am or what I am doing. I met these musicians in Soroti, Uganda while visiting IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps that house those who have been forcibly moved from their homes due to conflict. I will tell you more later about the work that I do in these places.
I call these musicians the “Soroti Boys” – they did not have a name for themselves and I knew they deserved one. They made the most amazing music on the kalimba, and a traditional string instrument called an adungu – a nine-stringed arched harp that has the silhouette of a sail boat at sea, and of course their voices were beautiful instruments as well.
If I did not tell you my name for this musical group, the falsetto voices of some of the members would trick you into believing you hear women singing. They played kalimbas of a few different sizes that represented the sounds of bass, solo, and rhythm guitars.
I was very fortunate that they allowed me to record them performing which is why I am able to share it with you today. I think you will enjoy this taste of music from Uganda. - Samite Mulondo”
“Wewe ndugu zangu”
(“For you my friends” – Swahiri)
You may listen to the Soroti Boys by using the built in mp3 player here:
You may also download the song here: Soroti Boys mp3
We asked Samite to forward some information about his instruments and music to post here on the African Music Blog, and this was his reply.
“Most of the instruments I play, find me.
Some of them are given to me by instrument makers, and others like all the instruments I have collected from East Africa, are very old and have been played by masters who are now dead.
Such instruments have soul. They are the “Soul of Africa” in my opinion.
If these instruments were to talk, they would repeat all the stories that they have accompanied over the years as musicians were entertaining in the villages. Many of the stories would happy stories about newborn babies, and others would be sad stories about the death of a loved one.
I am very excited to have this Africa Music Blog so that I can share stories with you. I look forward to telling you about the music that I write, the experiences that have shaped my songs, and my hopes for the future of African music.
When I am not playing the kalimba or flutes, I am playing the litungu. The litungu is a seven string Kenyan harp, typical of the kind of instrument you will find in all the stringed East African Music.
I love this instrument because it’s very gentle. If you just listen, you might think you are listening to a guitar. In this link you can download for free, an MP3 version of a song I call “Waterfall.”
It was recorded live in a concert I did with David Cullen in Elizabethtown PA. Let me know what you think.
I look forward to sharing other songs with you in the future.
Wow, all I can say is this is very moving. You will truly appreciate the spirit of Samite’s talent and beautiful music in this free African music download. > Right Click Here to Download – Select Save Link As
Rich Hill, editor
(Please leave your comments below.)
Welcome to our new African Music Blog, a feature designed to bring you the latest news about the world of African music currently enjoying a worldwide following.
Thanks to our dear friend Samite, Soul of Africa sounds are available to a global audience. The New York Times describes Samite’s music as “serenity” that “seemed almost miraculous”. If you know about Samite’s extraordinary outlook on life, you will understand why his music is so transformative.
From his early years in Uganda where his grandfather taught Samite how to play a traditional African flute, to his escape from a political dictator to Nairobi, to the peaceful enclave of Ithaca, New York, Samite says music unites the world. He blends African traditions with challenge, fear and ultimate rebirth.
Our African music blog will provide you with some of this history and perspective and update you on Samite’s latest project, an 8th CD focusing on Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Mathai of Kenya. Samite is proud that the winner of this prestigious honor hails from his native Africa and he will strive for music that is worthy of the occasion.
Like Samite’s extraordinary life, music with African roots continues to evolve. Historically African music has been difficult to record in writing; it is passed down in an oral tradition and that makes it very different from western music and even from the music of Northern Africa which has Arabic influences.
Sub-Saharan music involves dance as an extension of the expression of music. Since African dialects involve tone languages, that is, the pitch of the delivery changes the meaning of essentially the same word, rhythm; melody and dance follow the tone of the voice to assist in the “translation” of the song.
We will provide a lot of exciting information for you to peruse, both traditional and modern. So check back frequently with our African Music Blog and learn a little something new with every click of the mouse.