Sometimes you go to a concert, sometimes the concert comes to you.
Throughout my journey to Africa, I experienced many new and wondrous things. On this particular day, I found myself on the edge of the Kalahari desert in Botswana. The Kalahari desert is home of the San people, an indigenous group of people who have been living in this part of Africa long before it was colonized by Europeans. Ignoring all aspects of modernization that most of the world has experienced, the San people have chosen to keep it real, by eschewing modern technologies and relying on old tried and true methods of hunter-gathering. You can call them the originators of eating local, if you will.
On this particular day (and probably every other day), the San people came to our camp site to show us the ways of their culture and also, to perform traditional singing and dancing. It seemed somewhat exploitative for a group of mostly white people to sit around a circle and watch indigenous people perform, but if you don’t feel quite exploitative visiting Africa on vacation, then you probably are not getting the whole experience anyway (for better or for worse).
Since I review shows for a living (not really), it would be an injustice to not review the show I watched this particular night. Taking place immediately after dinner, the setup had a nice visual effect as two large fires were setup on the “stage”. As we were near a desert, the heat had left us quite early on and the warmth from the fire provided a nice element to the venue. The San people performing consisted of seven members, four elder female members and three younger male counter parts, kind of like S Club 7. The group wore traditional San Bushmen clothing, which amounted to not much (also, kind of like S Club 7). The three males wore additional items on their legs which they would use to generate percussive sounds during their dancing.
Sitting in a semi-circle by the fire, the four women provided much of the vocals throughout the set. The three males mostly provided the dancing and percussion via dancing and stomps, including some impressive stomps of bare feet into the fire for dramatic effects. With songs about Zebras, Orixes and other animals, it was refreshing to hear a group sing about topics other then love, lost and politics. I didn’t understand any of the lyrics, not having learned the local dialect but there was a translator on hand to explain each track before it was performed.
Despite the group’s enthusiasm throughout the set, I couldn’t help but feel most of the music sounded samey. The ladies gang vocal style was impressive at first, but it was a key component of every track and also, there was not much harmonizing and so it did sound mostly chaotic for much of the set. This might be because I don’t understand the language of it. The dancing, however was quite unique and the visual flare of the two fires combined with the stomping and the uniform made for a rather interesting experience.
All in all a unique show that most people don’t get to see, the group didn’t come out for an encore despite rapturous cheers from the crowd and promptly left in a pickup truck after.