Yesterday we started our class that focuses on Tanzania with a jumping game from the Wagogo, an intensely musical ethnic and linguistic group from the center of the country. We can’t wait to get to East Africa to attend the Chamwino Ngoma Festival, formerly the Wagogo Music Festival, and hop, dance and cheer all our Wagogo friends. Enjoy some Wagogo “mass singing” from the 2011 festival.
We start our online class this week by becoming Tanzanian frogs. The cibula, a frog, jumps (aye), and when he does he makes the sound “MATU!” This is a tricky “jumping game” from the the Gogo people of Tanzania’s Dodoma region, which I learned from the very generous Kedmon Mapana , originator of the Wagogo Music Festival.
This week’s online class introduces us to a pretty darned great portmanteau — in 1964 the archipelago of Zanzibar, located just off the East African coast, united with the mainland country of Tanganyika to form (ta da) TANZANIA! Join me this week as we leap like Wagogo frogs and celebrate Zanzibari Nowruz with a tussle.
Living up to the nickname “the Ethiopian Elvis” must be quite a challenge, but Ethio-Jazz icon Alemayehu Eshete can handle it. As our last post before we move along in music class, turning next week’s focus to Tanzania…watch this video of Eshete and his band of ferenge (“foreginers”) tearing up the stage. You’ll surely agree.
Yesterday we introduced Ethiopia’s endearing (and extensive) coffee ceremony. The “Buna” ceremony can last a couple hours or more, and is consciously slow, leaving ample time for socializing. This video shows us how it’s done in Lalibela, a city in Ethiopia’s north that’s known for its ancient rock churches. Go there for the churches? No. Go there for the coffee.
The Ethiopian coffee (“Buna”) ceremony is a super-caffeinated community-building tradition. The ritual, which may last over two hours, consists of several slow cycles of brewing and drinking strong coffee, giving neighbors the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. In this busy world how often do you take the time to drink over a dozen cups of coffee with your neighbors?
Yesterday we met the Ethiopian traditional dance called the Eskista, shaking our shoulders as the Amhara do. We tried our best to shake, shimmy and roll, and had much fun doing it, but that just left us wanting to learn more. Fortunately YouTube offers more of absolutely everything, including videos, like the one linked in this post, of Ethiopian kids doing the dance, and doing it wonderfully. Cheers!
The Eskista is a popular traditional dance of Ethiopia’s Amhara people. “Eskista” means “shaking shoulders,” and that’s what we do when we try it in class — first we shrug our shoulders to the beat, then we shimmy our shoulders, then — since by then we’re totally into it — we roll our shoulders. Let’s do it!
One of the most prominent Ethiopian music styles is Ethio-Jazz, which arose in the 1960s after Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke fell in love with American jazz while studying and traveling in the West. Returning to Ethiopia, he blended ancient Ethiopian scales with syncopated jazz rhythms. Astatke has long been a legend in the Ethiopian jazz world, but found international fame most recently when one of his songs appeared in the soundtrack of the Jim Jarmusch movie, “Broken Flowers.” Take a look at Astatke and his band performing live.
Ethiopia is on the the agenda in this week’s online class for kids. Over the ages Ethiopia faced many challenges from abroad, but with the exception of some years of Italian rule during World War II, the nation either ended up defeating the invaders or weaving them, or at least their religions, into the nation. Today, though there are still many reminders of wars, famines and military dictatorships past, the always-unique Ethiopia has become a vibrant international cultural, musical and culinary hub.