Thursday, 5 January 2012

Mama Africa

Two songs here from Sangoma, the best album of the late Miriam Makeba. Sangoma is a collection of Xhosa and Zulu folk songs that covers the lot: delight in children, loneliness and ostracism, fear of illness and deliverance from same, celebration at release from captivity, bereavement, intimations of immortality, warnings to horny and impetuous youth: if that's not getting your money's worth, I don't know what is. Totally marvellous stuff that you should investigate at once.

The first one is Baxabene Oxamu, a nonsense song to help kids master Xhosa cl
icks. The 'x' here represents the 'gee up' lateral tongue-click you use to get your horse moving. The line that follows is:

Beliqhata baba bgeqothyo leqhude

...where 'q' is a sound made by letting your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth and pulling the air in suddenly with a champagne-cork pop. I bought the CD in Piraeus at the tail-end of the nineties when I lived in a basement flat in Kolonaki, Athens. I had an echoing hallway to myself in which I practised my clicks, and I think I'm like, sordov, pretty click-literate by now, yeah? I have a colleague who is a native speaker of Zulu, and I once listened to her talking on her mobile to her husband. Those resonant pops are absent from everyday speech, unfortunately. I heard the clicks because I knew Reine speaks Zulu - otherwise I would probably have missed them.

Baxabene Oxamu by Miriam heard the clicks only because I knew Makeba on Grooveshark

The second song is Angilalanka, meaning 'I do not sleep'. Insomnia is taken as a sign that one is chosen by the spirit people to be a 'sangoma' or healer. If you are having trouble getting off, this might be why.

Angilalanga by Miriam Makeba on Grooveshark

There you go. A change for those of us normally in thrall to Middle Eastern wailing.


Bo said...

I nearly lost my dentures trying to do those!

Do you know Peter Gabriel's 'Passion'?

Vilges Suola said...

It's an extraordinarily difficult language to pronounce - clicks, ingressive consonants, tones. I've never attempted to actually learn any. Have not come across 'Passion' - will do some surfing later today.

Bo said...

It'll be just your thing.

Anonymous said...

Ah - Africa and Miriam and the clicks. More home sick now than I can say. I didn't manage to get there last year and miss it monstrously.

I shall do all my South African music tonight.....and allow myself to wallow.

Vilges Suola said...

Do you speak Zulu?

Anonymous said...

To my shame, no. I can greet, say "thank you" and ask you where something is and where you are going.I also have a few nouns. South Africa during my youth was a very odd place. There was no provision made for us to learn Zulu in any formal way. What I learnt I picked up "on the street" so to speak, but it was not approved of or tolerated. Je regrette....

Vilges Suola said...

Pity. All I know are 'incala' = trouble, and 'incanca' = penis. But then, I would know that.

maria verivaki said...

"A change for those of us normally in thrall to Middle Eastern wailing." alleluia

Vilges Suola said...

Obviously a welcome change, then.


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