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The Sing to the Well story

By 27. June 2020 Tanzania 4 Comments
sing to the well

A CD & DVD package

of African people

and their song

Recorded live on location in the mud hut village of Mnase, Tanzania – this album captures the heart of the Gogo people who are renowned for their musicality. The tracks cover a diversity of styles and instruments. From ancient close harmonies to the intoxicating rhythms of the female Muheme drummers….from the Pygmy-like vocables to the percussive sounds of the dancer’s leg bells (Njuga). Hear the master players of both the 3 stringed (bow- played) Zeze, and the previously undocumented 10 stringed (plucked) Zeze. Their songs cover many themes of life in this village from a girl singing about hoeing to different groups singing about farming, aids, celebration and welcome. An old man, the last known player (in the area) of the Donondo, sings whilst playing his strange musical bow sounding like a cross between a Jews harp and a Berimbau…..With the sounds of the side blown Baragumu horn, Kayamba shakers, and the tongue wagging shrills (ululation) of the women to the melodic tones of the Marimba Ya Vibao the tracks take us on a musical journey into the heart of this vibrant musical people.

Tanzania in East Africa is home to 126 different people groups whose national language is Kiswahili, yet each has their own unique cultural expressions and Bantu heart languages. In the centre of the country around Dodoma, (the Tanzania capital) is one of the most prodigious musical areas, home of the Wagogo.

Mnase 1 114

This is the story of a village, its people and their songs, whose simple existence is determined each year by the weather. It is a farming community of approximately 4000, who eke out a living in a sometimes inhospitable land, where dry river beds are the norm, and walking 2 km for water is considered a favourable year. Yet woven into the very fabric of their lives is a unique traditional music which brings a story of hope within the struggles of day to day life. This project is a musical glimpse of the sounds, stories and rhythms of a beautiful people, the Wagogo, whose lives are not stifled by their harsh realities, but who still have a creative passion to sing, dance and give thanks.

Our adventure began when visiting this region in February 2003. In living with and sharing life amongst the people we were amazed at their generosity and hospitality in a time of uncertainty. Their total reliance on the land and its harvest brought a day to day existence that was intrinsically linked with their faith and hope in God.

Mnase 242

On arriving home we began to ask, “How could we help?” So after much thought we wondered if it could be possible to partner with, and thus honour the Wagogo, enabling them to tell their story to the wider world. Also we hoped to encourage their wonderful cultural music in a time when more Western styles of music are encroaching, enticing the youth to forget their heritage and traditions, some feeling a “west is best” mentality.

It’s one thing coming up with an idea, it’s another thing putting it into action! Recording in a remote location with no electricity, plenty of dust, wind and a hot African sun, is a recipe for disaster. But in April 2005 we found ourselves back in the village, armed with laptop, Mbox, batteries and microphones. This CD/DVD is the result, and this blog tells the unfolding story, hopefully giving you a small glimpse into the world of the Wagogo.  ….. “Asanta sana!”

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Hello to you both!
    I am sitting in the local library, surrounded by snow. I have skived my norsk class and am taking an hour to read emails and catch up with friends. So fantastic to see your website and look at the photos. I will listen to some clips later when I’m home.
    Peter and I are living beside the Oslofjord till February then we move 10 hours northeast to the west coast for 18 months. I am slowly creeping closer to the Sami, the indigenous people I am drawn to…
    I mostly focused on learning Norwegian, but find myself suddenly about to go to Esfahan, Iran to a Storytelling Festival in 3 weeks. If you are in Northumberland, or next time you are there, please say hello to them all for me.
    I love your Hans Anderson quote. I was on a ‘pilgrimage’ to his birthplace in October. Last time I was there, I was 7. many magical and amazing things happened. It was almost as though Hans Anderson was with me. So now I am working with some of his longer stories which are beautiful.

    Love from troll-land, Angela

  • martin says:

    Great to hear from you Angela,
    Wondered where you guys were living at the moment. We also have some contacts with the Same people in Sweden and Finland, we would love to spend some time up in the north. The Iran Festival sounds exciting, you’ll have to let us know how that went.
    keep in touch, Lots of love, Martin and Rebekah.

  • Diane Sekuloff says:

    Hey, I love this album – so dynamic and you can sense the energy of the people. Also the DVD bit really helps come to a sense of the life of the village people. I’ve been using some pieces from it in my dance therapy. The kids in particular really respond to this music.


  • martin says:

    Thanks for your comments Diane – we have had a few responses from different schools and dancers who use this CD. It’s encouraging to hear how it helps and where this CD get’s too.

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