Empire News Africa

African Entertainment News Online…

Bowscapes evaluate: album celebrates new traditions in South Africa’s historical bow music

Spread the love

Musical bows are among the many oldest devices in southern Africa. Musicologists suppose the “ping” a bowstring makes when an arrow is launched inspired early hunters (way back to the Khoi and San nations) to make use of it for music-making in ritual and, later, different contexts.

The passing, in 2022, of South Africa’s bow virtuoso Latozi “Madosini” Mpahleni reminded South Africans of conventional bow music’s significance within the area’s intangible cultural heritage.

An album cover with the words

<span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Africa Open</span></span>

While you pluck, strike or stroke the string of a musical bow, you get not just one notice however further sounds (known as overtones), created by the air vibrating round it. Utilizing numerous methods – corresponding to including a gourd resonator, or inserting the top of the bow of their mouths – bow gamers can amplify and manipulate these sounds to form complicated music.

The work of veteran and youthful bow musicians, students and audiences all maintain these traditions alive and stimulate new repertoire. However the fascination bow music holds for the worldwide New Music neighborhood (trendy, modern live performance composers), and the choices for utilizing digital composing methods with bow sounds, have been much less documented.

Now a brand new compilation CD, Bow Undertaking 2: Bowscapes, brings that impression to the fore. Launched by the Africa Open Institute for Music Innovation and Analysis at Stellenbosch College, its 21 newly-composed digital tracks illustrate how heritage and innovation can work together in “conventional” music. And the way composers, whether or not inside or exterior its communities of origin, ought to deal with it.

Tribute to Jürgen Bräuniger

Bowscapes is a tribute to the late German-born, South African-based composer and music professor Jürgen Bräuniger, who died in 2019. Bräuniger advocated innovation in composing and enjoying. After I interviewed a number of the composers who had contributed tracks to the album for this evaluate, it turned clear how influential working with him had been.

South African composer Njabulo Phungula, a former scholar of Bräuninger, remembers:

Jürgen would encourage me to be extra ‘curious’ in my musical explorations … a lot of my latest music has to do with creating seemingly incompatible musical concepts and contexts through which they make sense, interesting to that curiosity.

A longtime collaborator, Netherlands-based Luc Houtcamp, with musician and bow scholar Sazi Dlamini and poet Ari Sitas, created their work as a result of, says Sitas, “We owed it to Jürgen.”

South African composer Michael Blake, professor at Africa Open, co-ordinated the album in addition to contributing a monitor. He had helmed the primary Bow Project album in 2010, a set of largely string quartet works honouring the musicianship of conventional bow grasp the late NoFinishi Dywili. To that, Bräuniger contributed the one digital soundscape, Tsiki’s Received a Headache, which opens this new recording. Blake instructed me that after Bräuniger’s dying he was searching for a approach to honour him:

I believed again to that ‘bowscape’, as he known as it, and began imagining an entire CD … of recent ones.

Blake contacted composers internationally, sending South African bow samples on request. Ultimately, he had 21 brief digital items, half from South Africa and half from locations as various as Mozambique, Nigeria, Mexico, Germany, Uruguay, the Faroe Islands and extra.

Bow music and battle music

On the CD, these two teams of composers sit on both aspect of an prolonged centrepiece: Strolling Track by Dlamini, Houtcamp and Sitas. Its lyrics are primarily based on verses from struggle era commerce unionist and poet Alfred Temba Qabula.

Strolling Track pays homage to 2 traditions: bow music and struggle music. Numerous musicians, together with completed bow gamers, used music as a part of their activism towards apartheid, as people or in commerce union and political celebration choirs and theatre teams.

Sitas explains that the three had been decided that:

We weren’t going to make use of the bow as a ornament or citation – we had been going to compose with it.

He sought permission from Qabula’s daughter so as to add modern allusions to the poem.

Composing with bow

These processes point out what went into making the album. Contributors acknowledged bow music as a professional compositional language, not an unique decoration to be appropriated. Conversations about who “owns” and has the correct to work with conventional music have been an vital a part of the decolonisation debate. South African composer, performer and scholar Neo Muyanga, who made the monitor uNontoUzavunywa, displays that borrowing is unavoidable, as a result of cultural staff have at all times drawn from older music to convey new and typically subversive messages. However “it’s vital to announce our sources and pay homage to them in each manner potential.”

<span class="caption">The Bow Undertaking.</span>

Muyanga’s work flips the gender message of a music from one other bow maestro, Mantombi Matotiyana. He says that when she first got here throughout that music, “all energy and possession had been invariably presumed to vest within the man”.

Phungula’s monitor Montage layers and contrasts the isolation of studio digital composing with “a component that contained a mess of sounds” – a household wedding ceremony recording he had made some years earlier. It invokes the spirit of neighborhood music-making through which bow traditions are rooted.

In lots of such communities, ladies (corresponding to Madosini, Dyiwili and Matotiyana) stay the main composers and performers. Three ladies composers function on the album: London-born Galina Juritz, Christina Oorebeek from the US and South African Cara Stacey.


Stacey, herself a bow participant, right here applies guitar results to the instrument: “Bows had been earlier; guitars got here in and changed them. I appreciated the thought of flipping that and changing the guitar … with bows.”

À lire aussi : New practices reinvent traditions in bow music

However her cyclical monitor, Rounds, additionally interrogates the stereotype that “custom” and its exponents are “static or fastened in any manner. My expertise from my analysis in Eswatini and with totally different bow gamers is that they’re eager to experiment. They already do experiment – and did up to now.”

Blake relishes the album’s variety of approaches, languages and sounds. In the neighborhood of music-makers he’s drawn collectively, Bowscapes displays each the neighborhood roots of bow music and the collaborative processes Bräuniger fostered.

The CD is obtainable from Africa Open and can quickly be obtainable as a obtain