One of my colleagues here observed, "When Africans are mournful they sing, and when they are joyful they also sing." I'd say that's seems to be true. My first clip here is of Sandisulwazi students entering school on a Monday. Not sure if that counts as mournful or joyful, but the students spontaneously burst into song as they entered the school compound.
This second clip is from the equivalent of a student of the quarter presentation this last Wednesday. Not a lot of teaching was accomplished this day. It started with a song, then some of the students started dancing, then some of the parents (several of whom are wearing traditional Xhosa dress) got into it. My camera unfortunately ran out of gas just as the whole ceremony devolved into a dance party. The principal was trying to restore order, but eventually he gave up and joined in. Okay, not enough furniture, teachers, books or calculators, but a lot of spirit. That counts for something.
Most South Africans (white or black) are nominally Christians – although, when faced with a conflict between traditional African beliefs and Christian doctrine, many black South Africans feel at liberty to choose as circumstances dictate.
I’ve always found it intriguing that the perpetrators of apartheid were apparently untroubled by what appears to be blatant religious hypocrisy, since all involved were Christians. On the other hand, South Africa’s peaceful transition to a democracy owes a lot to the forgiveness espoused by Cardinal Desmond Tutu and others.
I have never been much of a churchgoer myself, but I could not resist an invitation to attend Easter services in the township. Black services in South Africa are characterized by jubilant singing. In the service I attended, parishioners were roughly seated according to age and gender. There was a section of children, adolescents, and then older men and women. These divisions pretty much functioned as the “choir” sections as well. The service consisted of about 30 minutes of “traditional” service and 2 hours of singing.
Everyone sings, each group has its own call and response, and it’s own harmonies. When one song ends someone will start singing a new song and everyone joins in. I have no idea how they all sort it out but it’s amazing. Sometimes one group will taunt the other with a verse, and then the other group will respond in kind. Meanwhile people are swaying and dancing (including the pastor), clapping their hands, whistling and ululating (a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound produced by moving the tongue, rapidly, back and forth).
Anyhow, have a listen. Not quite as good as being there but close your eyes and imagine.
(PS-can't get the audio player to work so this is an audio only video)
"Don't raise your voice, improve your argument."
― Desmond Tutu