Immersed in indigenous music

The Eastern Cape Department of Arts and Culture, managed by head of performing arts Mandisa Nguza, will make a substantial contribution to this year’s festival with a celebration of isiXhosa culture with their orchestra production.

The Eastern Cape Indigenous Orchestra demonstrates the musical tradition of the Xhosa people, who have a song for every occasion.

The music is played on a range of traditional instruments including the umrhube (bow with string), uhadi (bow with string and a calabash), ikatala (guitar), isitoloto (mouth harp), upondo (kudu horn) and many other ethnic music makers.

The musicians are mostly women from Ngqoko Village in Lady Frere, who have passed on their knowledge to the young girl initiates who play with them.

They will also be joined on stage by male singers.

According to Nguza, although this production is predominantly music and singing, there is some dance.

‘It is the character of our music, when you sing, you move,” she said.

However, the ‘real x-factor” of this production, according to Nguza, is the split-tone singing.

‘These women are so skilful,” she said.

This singing style produces two notes at the same time, and some of the singers play instruments at the same time as maintaining incredible control over their voices.

The full traditional costume, raw handmade instruments and talented musicians will take you deep into Xhosa culture.

Another production showcasing African instrumental music is Rhythm Falls, the 12-piece Sibikwa Arts African Indigenous Orchestra directed by Neo Leleka.

According to Phyllis Klotz, the artistic director of Sibikwa, the orchestra could be described as ‘modern African music using traditional instruments”.

This is a more interactive performance where, after the orchestra has performed, the entire audience is invited to join in the music-making with drums, shakers and other traditional instruments.

This piece is from Cue Online, a project of Rhodes University’s New Media Lab.

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