Kalahari, a cultural encounter through music

23 June 2017
The Namibian Tales came together with the San community for a jam-packed event on Friday, 16 June, and Saturday, 17 June, at the Warehouse Theatre.  Tickets cost N$100 each and the theatre was full by mid-show, as people from all over the country came to watch the encounter.
The Namibian Tales is a band made up of five members: Bence Huszar on the cello, Debby Korfmacher who plays the Kora, mbira as well as back-up vocalist, Afro Nyambali on bass, Sahin During on drums and Shishani as the singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Explaining why this initiative was created Shishani said:
“The San were the first people in Southern Africa. So to get to jam, laugh, smile and crack up with them without speaking the language, just showed me that music is the ultimate language.
“Music is the way to connect to other people. We wanted to show that these people are rich in music, dance, drama, and no matter the age, they have so much energy. They do not need to learn from us, we are the ones that have to calm down and take that ego out.
“They respect their surroundings; they don’t break it, and they do not take to have more, like we do in our capitalist societies. I feel like we really need to look and listen to them. What we hoped to do was let them speak in their own language, tell their own stories so that represent themselves and not have other people come and talk for them.”
The two-year project was sponsored and supported by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN), DB Audio, the Netherlands Embassy, Goethe Institute and the Women Leadership Centre.
As one entered Cellar Rock hall Elsarien Katiti stood behind a desk selling San traditional handmade jewellery and bags. The show did not take long to start as Mercedez Von Cloete, MC for the night, opened the event.
The band and its show would not be complete without the subject of their presentations:  the San people. To kick off the show a group of San ladies performed a traditional drama, dances and songs showing everyone their cultural richness.  
The band members were joined on stage by the grandmothers of the group for a Kalahari encounter that has taken so long to put together. N!a Kumts, //Ao N!ani, Se//ae N!ani and Baqu Khallan put their hearts in their performance.
Language was not an issue as Kxao Khallan was the translator making communication between the group and the San people easy.
The rest of the band members had nothing but good things to say about the project. During said, “A lot of Kalahari, a lot of sand, a lot of beautiful people and children, no internet; disconnection and reconnection, it all was very inspiring.”
Huszar said, “This is my first time in Africa, so to be here is really amazing. I am used to seeing images on TV but being here and experiencing everything live is completely different. It was crazy to be in the Netherlands one day and sleeping in a tent the next day. It was frightening to hear the animal sounds at night, however, in the morning all was well. Namibia is amazing and all this has been an adventure.”
Korfmacher still trying to catch her breath from the performance shared her experience, “The trip has been too short. When we went to Tsumkwe to rehearse with the ladies, it was really amazing.
“For half a year we had been practising and rehearsing in Amsterdam the pieces that Shishani and Sahin had recorded when they came here last November.  We had been working a lot on it so when we came together, the first time we played together, it was so breathe taking. It felt like everything fitted together perfectly.
“It was fantastic to be a part of the group. I have been playing African music for 20 years now and I felt like I could use all my experience to help bring the music to life as best as I could. I have the desire to come back so that I can spend more time in Namibia plus I have four new grandmothers, what more can I ask for? ” said Korfmacher.
Shishani said, “I am speechless; Windhoek is what gave me the courage to go out in the world. I was on the other side but I never got the love that I got here, Windhoek made me who I am today. For me to do this project, bringing these ladies from far, bringing my other home here, because I grew up in Europe, has been a dream.
“To be able to bring these two worlds together has been a fantasy all my life because I have been trying to marry these parts of myself for so long and to do it with music has filled me with joy. When you work so hard on something, once it’s done it’s so hard to believe. I can’t believe that tonight has already happened, I really have no words. I’m over the moon and I need more time to digest what has just happened,” said Shishani.
For those that missed both shows, the whole event was captured on video and it will be released soon on YouTube under Namibian Tales and Shishani’s account. 


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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