Image credit: Azah Philosophies and Reflections via Facebook
By Mpho Tinyiko Azah Mphago
We summon forth the spirit of our ancestors – it is through the sounds of the horn (phalafala), the cowbell, or through the burning of Impepho, the ululations, the clapping of hands and stamping of feet whilst singing chants in a circular motion.
Our music primarily employs instrumentation made from both the vegetable and the animal – from drums which are made from cow hide, to shakers made from dried pumpkin shell and dried seeds. And this is so even in modern western classical from piano keys made from bones, guitars made from trees, and flutes made from bamboo reeds. All these combinations of organic and synthetic instrumentation dictate various modes of communication. They inform divine frequencies that connect us to the spiritual dimension such as is manifested in the combination of the discharge of the sweat from the palm of the drummer that comes into contact with the cow hide, the breath of the one who blows life into the horn, and the spirit in the voice of the singer and the pulsating rhythm in the heart of the dancer. The voice comes from the hallow chambers of the body in the diaphragm and through the lungs into the voice box.
The drive of the sonic anthologies itself comes from deep within. In a trance state there seems to be an involuntary path wherein all follow suit including messages which inform lyrical content. Musicians, just like dancers, take flight from a similar impulse – a never ending flow of musical forces that uses our spirits as pathways and we are ushered into multiple parallel dimensions, for music is a perpetual state of becoming, and becoming more than oneself, a becoming of multiple existence. We reach our zeneth, our intercollectiveness. We become a continual of those who came before us. This elusive quality of music, its imagined existence in time, is made the climax. What we mean to the music must be sought in the music itself as an extension of who we are but not what we are.
Purposeful singing is what concerns the spirits of the underworld. It is also used as a summoning ritual done in repeated circles of chants. One will come into possession of musical material of related orders of experience. Given these, the medium’s (singer) problem is to shape them coherently so that they are intelligence in themselves, and hence, communicable to the audience. The pleasure of the audience is never the objective. It is instead the healing and the spiritual union through the presence of the spirit.