Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Field Recording with CARE in Justicia, SA

A few days ago, I traveled north from Johannesburg with Tshepang Ramoba (drummer from BLK JKS) to make field recordings of traditional Shangaan music in the Limpopo region of South Africa.

Our trip was coordinated through CARE International as a part of an going project (CARE Music), which uses field recordings (and samples) of regional music to help fight global poverty.

We drove north from Johannesburg for nearly six hours, through the mountains of Limpopo -- Biggie on the radio, rondavel huts by the roadside and green as far as the eye could see.

Our destination was simple: a community garden supported by CARE in the outskirts of a small village.  Mama Grace (pictured above, far right) was in charge, she explained to us how her vegetables were delivered along with medicine and water to people with AIDS.

Under the shade of a tree in their garden, the women shared many songs with us for the CARE Music project -- traditional songs, songs about their collective, songs for the rain, sad songs, religious songs, welcoming songs.   Between songs, the women turned their fingers in the dirt, pulled weeds and seemingly plucked new melodies from the field.

After having lunch with Mama Grace -- hot pepper sandwiches + cold coke -- we traveled farther into the village.  Beside a few rondavel huts, Tshepang noticed a set of small drums laid out on the dusty ground.   I asked Mama Grace who they belonged to.   Moments later, a traditional healer emerged from her hut.   Someone cut the radio that was blaring house music and the healer started to play.

She was exuberant, talking to me in Shangaan like I understood every word.   Others emerged to play other drums.  We danced with the kids and played more drums.  Some were made from ceramic pots, some from tin oil drums.  The goat skin heads were tight and tuned.  We stayed for a bit, then took the long road back to Johannesburg.

Photos from Justicia by Wills and Tshepang 

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