Africa


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Ghana


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Highlife - The music

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Created by Destin A. Dopwell (2015)
Language: English

HighlifeHighlife is a musical form that originated in Ghana around the late 1800s and early 1900s. It then spread to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other West African countries in the 1920s. It has influenced all subsequent music borne of Africa. High life is a fusion of indigenous dance rhythms and melodies with Western sounds such as brass bands, hymns, European foxtrots sprinkled with some Caribbean “kaiso” and Liberian rhythms. However, before the great influence of the Western styles, rural guitarist played high life and the genre then grew from there.

The variety of different musical styles that helped evolved high life music encouraged a vast range of instruments to be used in this multifaceted genre. African drums, Trumpets, Saxophones, Guitars, Claves and many many other instruments along with a lead singer, a group of singers or both can be all found during a performance. The rise of Congolese music in the 1960s halted highlife’s golden era, however before this, it ruled all the dance floors across much of West Africa because of its catchy groove and up tempo beat.

One of the major influences on high life was during The World War II era. This introduced American swing to the highlife mix, which was already a blend of Trinidadian calypso, military brass-band music, Cuban son and older African song forms.

MensahIn 1948, a high life pioneer, Emmanuel Tettey Mensah more commonly known as E.T Mensah, formed the a highlife band called the Tempos. Mensah was a trumpeter and played many instrumentals with his band like the one you are hearing now, however their songs, with lyrics in many different languages including English and languages of West Africa, seduced admirers as far away as England. Hundreds of bands were subsequently formed in the Tempos footsteps continuing to revolutionize highlife.

Today, highlife may not be as popular as it once was, however a lot of it lives on as a result of its strong jazz, Latin and calypso connections. In this highlife piece, you can hear a walking bass as found in Jazz, congas as found in Latin, and call and response brass lines as found in Calypso.  

Sources:
African Pages at Alisdair.com
African High Life Music Hubpages.com
High Life Music by Banning Eyre on Afropop Worldwide at afropop.org
High Life Music in West Africa by Sonny Oti

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Mauritius


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L'île Maurice

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MauriciusBy Khurty Ramudu
Language: French

Géographie: Maurice
L'île, d’origine volcanique, est petite : 1 865 km² circonscrits dans un ovale d'environ 48 km d'est en ouest sur 65 km du nord au sud, avec 330 km de côtes. Située dans l'océan Indien, l'île Maurice appartient à l'archipel des Mascareignes (avec la Réunion et l'île Rodrigues).
 Sur les côtes, les plages sont protégées par une barrière de corail ceinturant l'île presque uniformément.
 C'est une île d'origine volcanique bien plus ancienne que la Réunion. À Maurice, le volcan est éteint depuis belle lurette. 
À l'intérieur, un grand plateau central situé entre 400 et 600 m d'altitude. Le point culminant, le piton de la rivière noire, s'élève à 828 m d'altitude.

Climat: À Maurice
On trouve une saison hivernale de juin à septembre, période pendant laquelle les températures sont au plus bas, oscillant tout de même entre 17 °C la nuit et 25 °C la journée. Les plus fortes pluies et les températures les plus élevées s'étalent sur plusieurs mois, de janvier à mars, et jouent au yo-yo entre 25 et 30 °C. 
Les précipitations prennent la forme d'un orage bienfaiteur qui rafraîchit l'atmosphère. Il pleut plus sur le plateau centrale et sur la côte est que sur la côte ouest. 
Les mois idéaux pour séjourner sont avril, mai, juin, septembre, octobre et novembre, mais aucune période n'est à proscrire. 
Il fait jour de 6 h à 18 h en hiver et de 5 h à 19 h en été.

L'île Maurice, comme les îles voisines, est sujette aux cyclones. L'été, les mers chaudes confrontées aux courants d'air frais engendrent des formations nuageuses, parcourues de vents violents et chargées en eau. La saison commence en décembre et se termine en mars. Bien souvent, ils passent juste à côté, se contentant d'arroser l'île de grosses ondées.

La faune: À Maurice
L'animal fétiche de Maurice n'existe plus. C'était le dodo, une sorte de gros canard (près de 25 kg) au bec recourbé et crochu. Il a disparu au XVIIe, victime de la chasse.
Sur la bonne cinquantaine d'espèces d'animales. qui existaient avant l'arrivée de l'homme, il n’en reste qu’une poignée. En revanche, différentes espèces de souche étrangère à l'île et importées par l'homme prospèrent à son voisinage.
Il n'y avait qu'un seul mammifère à Maurice avant l'arrivée des hommes, la chauve-souris mauricienne. Depuis, le lièvre, la mangouste, des singes et deux sortes de boas, le cochon sauvage et le cerf ont été introduits à Maurice. 
Mais le règne animal marin est certainement plus riche et plus représentatif de l'île Maurice.

La flore: À Maurice
La nature de l'île fut énormément modifiée par l'arrivée de l'homme. Autrefois, une épaisse forêt recouvrait l'île de toutes parts; aujourd’hui, elle n'en recouvre que 3 % dans les réserves naturelles, elle a été remplacée par la canne à sucre.
Deux arbres particuliers : le flamboyant et le filao. Le premier offre de novembre à janvier une floraison incroyable de petites fleurs rouges ou orange. Le filao s'avère plus modeste. Il ressemble au pin et se trouve le long des plages.
Dans les régions touristiques comme le Nord, on verra surtout des champs de canne à perte de vue.


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Image source: http://travellingboard.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/mauritius2.jpg
Article source: http://www.routard.com/guide/ile_maurice/398/geographie_et_climat.htm

Tunisia


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To the Tyrants of the World, by Aboul-Qacem Echebbi

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Read by Haifa Gharbi
Language: Arabic

Aboul-QacemAboul-Qacem Echebbi (24 February 1909 - 9 October 1934) Arabic: أبو القاسم الشابي‎ is Tunisia's most reverenced poet. His talent was ascertained at an early age and his bewildering poems propelled him in the fore front of Arab poetry. In his poems, he coated several themes ranging from the depiction of nature to patriotism. "To the tyrants of the world" is one of his most famous and acclaimed poems. It was first used in the early uprising against the French colonizer. More than fifty years later, the same words were chanted during the period of unrest that ultimately led to the Tunisian Revolution. The poet’s verses spurred Arab protestors who followed the Tunisian model.

 

To the Tyrants of the World

Hey you, the unfair tyrants…
You the lovers of the darkness…
You the enemies of life…
You’ve made fun of innocent people’s wounds; and your palm covered with their blood
You kept walking while you were deforming the charm of existence and growing seeds of sadness in their land
Wait, don’t let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you…
Because the darkness, the thunder rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash
Who grows thorns will reap wounds
You’ve taken off heads of people and the flowers of hope; and watered the cure of the sand with blood and tears until it was drunk
The blood’s river will sweep you away and you will be burned by the fiery storm

 

Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Aboul_Kacem_Chebbi.jpg
Text Source: http://voiceseducation.org/content/aboul-qacem-echebbi

 


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Zimbabwe


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Great Zimbabwe

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Read by Tinashe T. Chidziva, (2015)

Great ZimbabweGreat Zimbabwe is an iron-age ruined city in the Masvingo province of Zimbabwe. The city was built atop a hill and is said to have had 12000 to 20000 inhabitants during the 11th and 15th centuries. Its economy was based on trade, mining, and Animal husbandry. Zimbabwe, the country’s namesake is from the city’s name “Dzimba Dzemabwe” which means house of stone in Shona.
The Great Zimbabwe monument is built out of granite which is the most common rock of the region. The monument was built without mortar and some of the site is built round natural rock formations, which required high levels of masonry expertise. The actual structure comprises an enclosing wall some 36 feet high and extending approximately 820 feet. There is also what is thought to be a gold workshop, and a shrine which is still regarded as sacred today (Story of Africa, 2012).
In addition to architecture, there are 8 soapstone birds that were discovered in and Soapstone Birdaround the monument. The birds are about 16 inches big and sit atop columns that are more than a yard tall. The sculptures combine both human and avian elements, substituting human features like lips for a beak and five-toed feet for claws. The birds have continued to be a national symbol; and are adorned on the national flag. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001)

Great ZimbabweGreat Zimbabwe was largely abandoned during the 15th century. With the city’s decline, its stone working and pottery-making techniques transferred southward to Khami (now also in ruins) which is near modern Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo. European explorers who visited the site in the late 1800s believed it to be the legendary city of Ophir, the site of King Solomon’s mines. Because of its stonework and further evidence of an advanced culture, the site was variously, and mistakenly, attributed to ancient civilizations such as the Phoenician, Greek, or Egyptian. In 1905 the English archaeologist David Randall-MacIver concluded that the ruins were medieval and of exclusively African origin; the English archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson confirmed his findings in 1929 (Britannica, 2012)


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Sources:
Great Zimbabwe. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/243929/Great-Zimbabwe
Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. "Great Zimbabwe (11th–15th century)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved from New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/zimb/hd_zimb.htm (October 2001)
BBC world Service. The story of Africa, Central African kingdoms. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/10chapte...

Photo Credit:
Manu Ampin (2012). Retrieved from http://libtv.com/Manu/images/Zimbabwe_6.jpg
http://www.allempires.com/forum/uploads/33193/zimbabw.jpg
https://marikaintegratedproject09.wikispaces.com/file/view/dasd.jpg/6975...

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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Read by Tinashe T. Chidziva, (2015)

Zimbabwe is a country in the southern region of Africa, and shares its borders with South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. On the border line between Zimbabwe and Zambia lies the Zambezi river and on that river is one of seven natural wonders of the world, the Majestic Victoria Falls known by the local people of that region as Mosi oa Tunya, the smoke that thunders. The falls are an impressive 5096 feet wide and 360 feet deep (Zimbabwe Tourism, 2010).

Victoria FallsVictoria falls was named so by David Livingstone, the first European to set eyes on the falls in 1855 and called it the most beautiful sight he has ever laid eyes on. Over the years two towns have grown on either side of the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which serve as a great tourist destination.

Some of the tourist attractions in and around Victoria Falls include the Victoria Falls Bridge; which connects Zimbabwe and Zambia (Zambezi.com, 2010). The bridge was constructed during colonial times as part of the railway, which was meant to cross the British territories in Africa from Cape Town South Africa to Cairo Egypt. Other Attractions include the Mosi oa Tunya National park in Zambia, Victoria falls national park in Zimbabwe, Hwange National park in Zimbabwe and Chobe Game reserve in Botswana which are all within a two hour commute of each other by road.

Victoria falls town in Zimbabwe is a vibrant space with many lodge Victoria Fallsresorts and is easy to navigate. Tourist police who keep local Zimbabweans trying to sell authentic products to visitors from becoming bothersome also keep the town safe. On occasion one can find a traditional song and dance performed in the streets.

Victoria Falls is an ideal holiday destination for anyone seeking a break from the everyday city life and is easy to access with an international airport near the town and a good road and rail network within Zimbabwe and between neighboring Botswana and Zambia, which also have international airports.


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Sources:
Image credit: http://www.victoriafalls-guide.net/images/victoria-falls1.jpg
Text credit:
History of the Falls. Zambezi Safari and Travel company. 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.zambezi.com/content/history_of_the_falls
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. 2010. Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. Retrieved from: www.zimbabwetourism.net
 

Mbira (Chigamba)

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Read by Tinashe T. Chidziva, (2015)

Mbira
Mbira is a musical instrument that has metal keys attached to a wooden board and is usually placed in a resonator known as a Deze in Shona. My Family has played the instrument, specifically the Mbira Dzevadzimu (mbira for the ancestors) for many generations. This type of mbira has been around for thousands of years and popular music group Mbira Dzenharira (a local band in Zimbabwe) has played this specific instrument with my father for many years. The following narration and song is a brief history to the origins of the song Chigamba; which was played by Esdo Chidziva in 2008.

Shona Version:

Chigamba chakabva kuvashawasha, kumhuri ye Denhere Godzonge Kwatakabva isu vana Chidziva. Chigamba chainzi chinoda vakuru nokuti paive nemurume ainzi Tingindi, aive mukuru mumhuri, zvino akatodzwa nemunin’ina wake akamuti agarisa setsvimborume zvamakore apa aida kutora hushe. Zvino vakuru vemusha vakati ungatore hushe setsvimborume here? Naizvozvo Munin’ina akatsvaga mukadzi wemukoma, akati kunamukoma ndatove baba kwauri sezvo ndabvisa roora yemukadzi wako. Ndopakamuka kusawirirana pakati pavo uye nharo idzodzo ndodzakazopinza hushe mumba maChidziva.

Translation:
Chigamba is a song that was composed by the Vashawasha in the Denhere Godzonge family, which is where the Chidziva Family originates. The saying Chigamba Chinoda vakuru (Only an adult can fix a problem) came from the story of Tingindi, the oldest child in the family who was in line to take over the throne of Chiefdom, but he did not have a wife. His younger brother then sought a wife and paid the bride price for his brother for the elders in the village refused for Tingindi to take the throne without a wife. When the wife arrived, Tingindi’s younger brother then said that by Shona custom he was in a higher rank and the rightful heir of the throne because he had paid the bride price (a task meant for a father to perform) for his brother making him a father to his brother. The disagreements between the two brothers lead to the demise of the older brother and the ascension of the younger brother to the throne.

  About Chigamba and Esdo Chidziva
Esdo ChidzivaThe song that plays after the narration was played by Esdo Chidziva in 2008 over an international phone call hence the bad quality. He started playing the instrument when he was seven years old and was one of the few Gwenyambira (traditional mbira players) that remained in Zimbabwe; he continued to play with various bands in the country till his death in November 2008.
To hear more mbira music visit: www.kumatare.com, www.mbira.org and www.youtube.com/gwenaymbira

Image source: http://www.mbira.org/images/mbirahome.gif