music is the most primeval form of human expression, imbued with a
mystical power to communicate at an instinctual level that transcends
language and speaks directly to the soul. The San Bushmen
- the indigenous people of the southern African region are Africa's
oldest inhabitants, having lived in the region for approximately
twenty-five thousand years. For them, music and dance are not merely
creative expressions, but an integral part of their being.
- Bushmen of the Kalahari
- Sanscapes Vol. 1
- Sanscapes Vol. 2
- Pops Mohamed - How Far We Have Come
element of the San cultural identity is their medicine dance and music,
in which they use rhythm to heal both the individual and the
collective. The medicine men have a supernatural potency within them
called n/um that enables them to cure sickness. To activate this
substance they dance and sing, creating sounds and a tempo that heats
the n/um, causing it to rise up to their heads and evoke trance.
Tragically, after decades of systematic marginalisation and
dislocation, the modern world threatens these ancient people, their
culture as hunter-gatherers, and their strange and beautiful music. The
San involved in both the original Melt recordings Pops Mohamed Presents the Bushmen of the Kalahari,
and the remix projects come from an area of Namibia called
the Omaheke Region, bordering with Botswana. In May 2001 four San
musician !Gube Tietei, Anna,Kuela and Marcela visited England to launch the SanScape Project. Performing with Pops Mohamed and Zena Edwards, the artists were reunited after their success at the .
There are over twenty different San groups distinguished by their
language spread over Southern Africa. There are seven different San
groups in Namibia with !Gube, Anna, and Marcela from the Noa, based in the corridor in the Omaheke Region. Kuela is from the Dcuikhoe tribe in Botswana.
Comment by Pops Mohamed
In the late eighties I saw the slow death and vanishing of indigenous
music on radio stations as South Africa was entering a new era which
was dubbed the New South Africa, or better known as the Rainbow Nation.
Everybody was looking forward to this new future with high hopes and
dreams BUT, some of us forgot where we were coming from.
beginning of the nineties I decided to help save traditional music from
disappearing and started looking for music from the Kalahari to study,
but couldn't find anything in record stores. I wasn't interested in
reading the many books that were available because no matter how much
I read these books it still wouldn't bring me any closer to this music
and it's people. It was time to go to the Kalahari myself to see why
this intrigued me so much. So together with MELT2000 we set off to the
immediately apparent that these were amongst the most peaceful people
in the world. Their music blew me away. The trance dance of the San
people is something out of this world. The San people have been ripped
off in many ways - their lands and rights taken away from them. But,
the one thing no-one could, or can take away from them is their pride,
their culture, their traditions and most of all...their music. This
has been with them for over 45 thousand years and will be with them
until this world comes to an end. The medicine dance will 'heal them
into the future' as it has done in the past.
believe this music should be kept alive in all art forms, 'cos that's
the only way we can educate the younger generation of tomorrow. To bring
the culture to them in a way they can relate to and understand while
at the same time providing access to the original music. I feel honoured
to be performing this music with them- for being taught the way of the
San, and I want to thank you, the listener from the bottom of my heart
for helping us fight back. Your contribution will help protect this
music from disappearing. What you have in your hand is musical history
of the first mankind...The San. Enjoy and spread the word of music from
'Ancient Ambient Africa' (AAA).
Pops Mohamed, Artist & Project leader of the "Bushmen of the
December 2000, Johannesberg, South Africa
Mohamed, the veteran South African musician and key player in the
Outernational Meltdown, the preservation of indigenous musical forms
has become his life's work. For years, Pops had sought in vain to
discover the music of the Khoisan but all he had been able to find was
a documentary recording in the archives of the South African
Broadcasting Corporation and, from then on, he knew that he must go to
the desert to find for himself the sounds that are captured on this
album, the first release on the MELT label.
July, 1995, Pops Mohamed, Peter Thwaites, Libera & Robert Trunz,
Pop, Dick Jewell, Ben Watkins & Norma Fletcher from Juno Reactor Productions - all from different backgrounds and cultures ,went on an
unforgettable journey to the Namibian 'korridors', near the border with
Botswana to record with the San family of !Gubi Tietei. Beyond the international sporting
grounds where rich tourists go hunting with their cameras, this region
is off the maps given out by rental car companies. To travel there is
like going on a pilgrimage to discover the very soul of Africa.
remaining San inhabit an austere environment with hardly any greenery
left because of the soil erosion that has taken place since the bushmen
were removed from their traditional hunting grounds, all over Namibia,
and forced to become cattle farmers. Today, without land and barely
able to support themselves, the bushmen eke out a desperate existence
but their spirit is indomitable and, with the support of the Nyae Nyae
Farmer's Co-operative, they are now learning to organise and to demand
their fundamental human rights.
after negotiating with the chief, we had a huge barbecue and then there
was singing and dancing the whole night long. It was the most wonderful
welcome any of us had ever experienced in our entire lives and the prelude
to a few magical days and nights as their guests and sharing with them
our food and whatever we had brought with us. The Khoisan may not have
a lot, but they are one of the few people today who still understand that
in order to survive, we must respect the earth and be thankful for its
treasures. No matter how sparse, nature provides. Over
three days we listened to and recorded their stories and their music
from a makeshift studio set up in the back of a 4X4. It was the most
inspirational experience of my life. All of us had our hearts opened to
a new way of being that has been hidden so far away from us, and made
us realise that we in the so-called first world have become so
sophisticated that we have lost touch with the elemental concerns that
preoccupy those primitive people, who inhabit the third world. The
process of evolution has brought mankind a long way since the dawn of
time but, really, how far have we come?
Bushmen - the indigenous people of southern Africa are Africa's oldest
inhabitants, having lived in the region for over twenty - five thousand
years. Throughout history they thrived in one of the most hostile environments
in the world, living as semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers in the arid areas
of Angola, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Well known for their
rich legacy of rock art that can be found leaping off the walls of mountain
ranges across the continent, the San have strong cultural traditions
that until recently remained relatively untouched.
were first colonised over one thousand years ago by the traditionally
cattle-herding Bantu tribes who moved south from mainly eastern Africa.
Colonisation continued with the arrival of the Europeans who forced
their way northwards from the Cape in southern Africa. These land-hungry
pastoralist groups dispossessed the San of their land base and consequently
their natural resources. A people once numbering millions who roamed
freely across their ancestral land, the San are now approximately 100,000
strong and are dominated by pastoralists who control most of their land.
It is estimated that only 10% of the present San population still have
access to their former natural resources, and only 3% are currently
allowed to manage their natural resources and exercise their traditional
and resource loss has had an extensively negative impact on the San,
particularly in terms of limiting their prospects for living according
to their age-old cultures. No longer able to hunt freely, their survival
in the desert gets harder by the day. Aside from the physical needs
hunting fulfils it is also central in both their religious and ritual
lives. Not only are they left hungry but they also face increasing social
problems as a result of their inability to continue living in a way
that is fundamental to their culture and identity.
consider their cultural practices to constitute the backbone of a healthy
and socially intact community. The disruptions to an indigenous culture
caused by injustices such as land and resource dispossession are such
that the affected community is unable to uphold its traditional consensual
decision-making processes. This decision making process was integral
in maintaining the egalatarian nature of the San, a unique feature of
their culture. Unable to hunt and roam freely their social organisation
has had to change dramatically as they have had to deal with issues
such as land and resource management, discrimination, and the encroaching
continues today through so called reintegration and resettlement processes
under the independent governments of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.
Relocated in the name of "development" mainly to establish
wildlife reserves and tourist activities, or caught in the crossfire
of political conflict, the San are forced to live in corridors, much
like the Indian reservations in North America. In such camps they can
no longer hunt and are tortured, even killed in Botswana for trying
to maintain this age old tradition that they depend on. The claims of
the Botswana Government that these people are an environmental hazard
to the reserve is hard to reconcile with the same governments enthusiasm
for diamond mining in that area.
people have become servants or cheap farm labourers in order to be able
to feed their family and as such their only solace is often to be found
in a bottle of homebrew or liquor which they are paid in for their labour.
Such a situation breeds alcoholism and violence reminiscent of many
of the marginalised indigenous minorities around the world. Suffering
from discrimination, loss of land, forced cultural change, exploitation,
hunger and poor health they are now striving to find ways of empowering
themselves in order to maintain pride in their culture.