Friday, December 19, 2014

Haya music

Cover of Tanzania Instruments
12" x 16", oil on canvas, 2014
The illustration above is a bit misleading as the song it illustrates  doesn't feature any drumming. A more appropriate source image would have been the photograph taken by Hugh Tracey of a player of the  Bangwe raft-zither of Nyasaland (Malawi) but it was already used for a zither tune by the Hehe people of Tanganyika (Tanzania) in September. The top 100 song the happy drummer boy illustrates is called Mugasha, which was played by Habib bib Seliman and recorded by Hugh Tracey in Kabale, Tanzania, in 1951. Like the Hehe people's recording, this one is also found on the record The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, Volume X: British East Africa. Habib bin Seliman belongs to Haya people habituating northwestern Tanzania. I never heard the Tanzania Instruments record but I know it features recordings by the Haya people. The recordings on that record were also made by Hugh Tracey, and, no doubt, the cover photo was also taken by him. 

The painting (but not the photograph) would have been an appropriate illustration too, of a water drum recording that belongs to my favorite African field recordings ever made. The water in the painting is the result of yet another landscape painting demo produced in front of a group of students. In a 6-week landscape painting class, a student had asked "how to paint water?" since I do not know the answer to that question, I figured I would just try.

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