Except for a handful of individuals who have gone out of their way to discover more facts about Africa, it is generally assumed by most that the drum is Africa's only musical vehicle. Although this is the world's largest contingent, after Asia, very few people even think that there could be a great difference between Congolese and Nigerian music. I have seen people gape in total disbelief when they discover that Ghana is thousands of miles away from Rhodesia or that I don't speak Swahili.
I sincerely hope that this album will help to increase everyone's knowledge of Africa's music and how much it varies with every hundred miles one may travel in any direction, changing with the people, language, art and architecture.
The sounds of this album are but a small corss-section of some of the music South Africa's people make.
Noyana - This song is a classic in the Zionist churches. The congregation use drums and wear white robes with green or blue trimmings and belts. They baptize in rivers and lakes, get possessed by the "holy spirit," whereupon they get emotionally hysterical and perform in very much the same way as many of the gospel churches in the United States.
Pretoria - Pretoria is the legislative capital of South Africa, thirty-six miles north of Johannesburg. All the most important court trials and sentences take place there. An old urban favorite around Johannesburg, it tells of the plight of Africans when they have to go from office to office. Sung in Tswana, it says, "My cousin is in jail because of a complication over a bicycle. I went looking for him from desk to desk, building to building and everywhere I went, I had to be fingerprinted, sign, stamp, fingerprinted, sign, stamp, fingerprinted, sign, stamp, fingerprinted, sigh, stamp."
Joala - This song is from mountainous, snow-capped Lesotho, deep in the South African interior. The Basotho are famous for their fantastic humor, beautiful music, short temper and fast, sharp tongue. This is a jest song about a man who had been extremely drunk the previous night. His friends ask him, "What kind of brew did you have that should cause you to leave your apparel in the garden?'
Aredza - The Shangaan people, like the Pedis, come from the North and boast many similar sounds and ways of life. Aredza is about a man's constant ill-luck and how he cannot understand why he should be so unfortunate.
Kedumetse - Since the early 18th century, the Christian church has played a dominating role in the lives of most urban Africans living in the townships. In fact, up until 15 years ago all elementary, secondary and university schools were run by one church or the other. Kedumetse is an old classic in the African Methodist churches that are common all around the gold-mining areas of Johannesburg and its surrounding towns. Sung in Setho, it proclaims, "I have given my soul to the Lord, my faith will redeem me and so shall I be blessed with His grace."
Umoya - Most of South Africa's people still believe in their traditional religion, appeasing and offering libations and sacrifices to the ancestors, the only element capable of communicating on their behalf with the Supreme powers that control life. Umoya is the soul and spirit that prevails in their midst, charting out their destinies. When events in one's life get to pose difficulties, that is when the spirit is displeased and spreads bad vibrations. This song is in Swazi and says, "I am disturbed by the spirit in the wind. I can tell the atmosphere is not good, the spirit has to be appeased."
Thokozile - On celebration days and holidays, people in the townships who enjoying drinking always go knocking from door to door singing this happy song in small groups. Thokozile is the name of any lady of the house upon whose door they knock, singing, "Thokizile, open the door because we are coming, for you are so kind!" It is sung in Zulu.
Bopedi - The Pedi people come from northernmost South Africa. They have large music ensembles consisting of scores of drums, reedpipes, horns, stringed instruments, finger pianos, dancers and singers. Very few of them ever take to city ways. They love to sing about the beauties of their home in the North, the cattle, hills, lands, women, warriors, music, rivers, ornaments and natural wealth.