Africa: The Rhythm of Life

I’ve written about my love of Africa before. The natural beauty of the landscapes. The incredibly friendly and cheerful people. The stunning skies, particularly at sunrise and sunset.

But at the top of the list of things to love about Africa has to be its music.

From the time you set foot on African soil until the time you leave, you are surrounded by music.

You might pass a nondescript classroom on a Sunday, dropping your kids off at school for some event, and the most beautiful singing will waft out of it, this classroom having been appropriated for church by the grounds staff.

a capella singers in Cape Town
V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, 2011

You might walk around Cape Town’s beautiful waterfront and be stopped in your tracks by an a capella performance that inevitably has you clapping and swaying along. You will reluctantly tear yourself off, only to stop again a few minutes later listening to opera that sounds like it’s beamed straight from La Scala in Milan, except it is sung by a born- and bred African who has perfect Italian inflection.

Or you might be pushing your trolley through O.R. Tambo International Airport when you come to a large gathering of a school choir going on tour in Namibia and giving an impromptu performance right there in the airport terminal to the other travelers, who, like you, will be mesmerized and totally forgetting they have a flight to catch.

South African school children singing
Impromptu school choir performance at O.R. Tambo International Airport, 2010

Africans, it seems, are born to dance and sing. If you go on a safari and stay at a game lodge in the bush, you might be treated to a “boma night” where the staff gives you a native dance and music show. Invariably these people are more or less thrown together, but invariably they will perform as if they’d been practicing as a travelling troupe for years.

staff greeting guests at Xigera Camp with singing
Greeting dance at Xigera Camp in the Ocavango Delta, 2012

I still cannot listen to a rendering of South Africa’s National Anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, without a serious attack of goose bumps.

I wish I could give you a video clip of any of the above, but seeing as I was carrying an almost museum-quality phone with me most of our time here in Africa, I can’t. However, having recently upgraded to a new iPhone with Vodacom (something I will blog about soon, for sure) I can offer you my recent taping of a school choir and orchestra performance at Linder Auditorium here in Johannesburg, where Dainfern College performed along with a few other prep schools.

It was rather a well-rehearsed event as opposed to some of the impromptu examples I cited above, so it’s not quite the same thing, but it nevertheless captures some of that African music and rhythm I’ve tried to describe. I hope you stay around till the end of it, where Dainfern College sings about the “Rhythm of Life.”

That’s what Africa, more than anything else, is all about.

The Rhythm of Life.

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