I attended a concert by one of the choirs I am researching last night with the intention of documenting their performance specifically. What I got was yet another example of cross-cultural interaction through music. The choir I was there to see and two local boys' choirs performed with an American Gospel choir from Pennsylvania state. The first thing that jumped out at me about the choir I was documenting's repertoire was how many African American Spirituals they performed. These numbers are always popular with South African audiences, partly because of their vibrancy (even subdued numbers are usually sung full-voice, the music is rhythmically interesting, and the melodies are memorable and lyrical), but I was certain the American choir was more interested in hearing South African music. They did sing a few South African numbers, including two versions of "Ntylo Ntylo", one ballad-like, and one fast and energetic, with complex movements, but while the audiences smiles and movements during the latter piece, and their applause at the end suggested that they enjoyed this number particularly, I noted that the majority of improvised vocalizations of the type traditionally used to indicate approval and enjoyment, came from the choir, and not the audience, as is usual, and that these seemed to do more to get the audience going than the music alone. On the other hand, the gospel sung by the American choir got a similar audience reaction to the African music, though the majority of the spontaneity was directly connected to the music in that it involved actual vocal and musical interpolation and improvisation, and while there were a few interjections, these were from the audience (and mainly the visiting American audience, at that), and not the choir. The choir did, once or twice, interject improvised clapping sequences that I interpreted as having a similar function to the South African choir's vocal interjections. The American choir made some use of movement during their performance, thought it was generally simple swinging or swaying movements, and less choreographed than the South African choir's movement.
I really got the feeling, during this concert, that Gospel music, with it's roots in the African American tradition, is to multi-racial American culture what "African Traditional" music is to Multi-racial South African culture: somewhat representative of "their culture", in a tensely divisive/unifying relationship with national identities, but evocative, and demanding of a response.
Note to self: Teach chamber choir to ululate!
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
A couple of weeks ago, I got a write-up in a series of local newspapers. It was about the choir I conduct, and was a lot of fun to do. So last week, a guy from SABC (TV) phones up. He read the paper, and wants to do a slot on the choir and I for a national television show! It was broadcast on Saturday morning, and despite the atrocious skin break-out (post-exam stress, interview stress, any stress!) I was suffering at the time, I am really happy with the results. It is so nice to have one's work taken so seriously. Now if I could just get back to taking my research seriously...
Thursday, June 09, 2005
I'm supposed to be recovering from exams. Really, isn't that what everyone does in the post mid-year insanity? A day, or a week would do it. Instead, after two weeks of absolute insanity, writing and studying till midnight, up again at 6am, and hours locked in the university library, I'm sitting in front of my computer, in the university library (where else) trying to pull together a draft of my research paper before tomorrow. And so what do I do? blog, surf, and read horoscopes. of all things! I have never been so absolutely incompetent, procrastinating, and incapable of thinking straight, ever! Please, if you know the trick to getting down to work in as exhausted a state as I, at present, am, please let me know. Ok, rant over. Back to the word-processor.