Tanzanian dance-music ensemble brings tribal cultures aliveOctober 13th, 2009 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) Dancers in printed wraps, tiger-rosette loincloths and elaborate feathered head-dresses brought alive the ancient tribal cultures of Tanzania here as the part of the ongoing Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF).
Five members of the Dar-es-Salaam-based Lumumba Theatre Group held the audience at the Kamani Auditorium under their spell with an hour-long recital of traditional ethnic dances, fire jugglery acts, music and a percussion concert Monday evening.
The ensemble was brought here by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
The musical act opened with a percussion recital that featured traditional Tanzanian drums like the Msondo, a long drum made of wood and cow hide, smaller drums known as the Chapuo made of wood and tin and the xylophone, known locally as the Mrimba.
This was followed by songs sung in praise of India-Africa ties and ethnic dances of the different tribes inhabiting the east African nation.
The dances included a complicated fire-balancing act, a torch dance and traditional festival and hunting dances with swords, collectively are known as Ngoma, which in Swahili means drums.
Ngoma dances are performed to the beat of percussion instruments either at post-harvest festivals or to appease spirits of ancestors.
“Tanzania has nearly 120 tribes and each tribe has its own culture. Most of the ethnic groups dance during festivals and celebrations like births, weddings and village rites. The dances are as old as the tribes themselves dating back to thousands of years,” Amon Mwamanenge, deputy high commissioner of Tanzania to India, told IANS.
The Lumumba Theatre Group, a professional music and dance company, was formed in Dar-es-Salaam in 2002.
“They belong to the Lumumba Primary School, one of the many in the capital set up to spread the Swahili language after Tanzania became independent,” said Habibi Msamy, the troupe leader and a spokesperson for the ministry of culture.
The ‘musical theatre’ group was led by Kudura on the drums. Afflicted with a crippling limb disorder, Kudura played at least four different percussion instruments from his perch on the stage.
“I have been playing percussion instruments for the last 10 years,” the frail musician told IANS.
The troupe comprises 20 members, but “only five could make it because the concert was arranged in three days”, he said.
The troupe members included Mwasiti, the lone woman, Komba, Ibrahim and Shabani, who danced, played the percussion and sang.
The music was a mix of “Msoma, Mdundiko and Vanga” ethnic genres - the three most popular traditions.
“This is their first show outside the continent though the Lumumba ensemble has performed across Africa. We are trying to promote them,” Msamy said.
The show was part of special segment, ‘Artistic Voices from India and Commonwealth’ of the DIAF.
“Tanzania was keen to perform at the DIAF. We hope to see Tanzanian performers back in 2010 for the Commonwealth Games,” said dancer Pratibha Prahlad, the brain behind DIAF.
“We have centuries-old ties with Africa. There is a lot of receptivity about African culture in India. It is also reciprocated by the Africans. Music runs in their blood and is an expression of joy for the African people. This year, we also presented folk band from Egypt at the DIAF,” Virendra Gupta, director-general of the ICCR, told IANS.
The music industry of Tanzania, say ethnomusicologists, has seen many changes over the years. With the inroad of western cultures, Tanzanian ethnic music has picked up urban rock and pop sounds to become one of the best in East Africa having churned out big names in R&B, pop, taraab (traditional fusion music) and popular dance music.
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Tags: balancing act, dance company, dances, delhi international, different tribes, east african nation, harvest festivals, head dresses, loincloths, lumumba, music and dance, music ensemble, musical act, ngoma, percussion instruments, professional music, swahili language, theatre group, tribal cultures, xylophone