The area known as Tongaland is geographically the north-eastern corner of Zululand, stretching northwards from the Mkuzi Game Reserve to the borders of Mozambique and Swaziland. It includes a tremendous variety of habitats, many of these little known or documented, supporting what is probably the most unique flora and fauna in southern Africa.
One can almost say that whatever form of life exists between tidal pools and mountains, it can be found in Tongaland.
During recent years, progress has been rapid in this area. Each year more and more men have left the hills and plains to seek fortune in the cities, goldmines and sugar-mills. Many traditions and customs have become old-fashioned, much folklore and music handed down from father to son have been abandoned or forgotten as civilization has advanced. The instruments in the selections are naqueyane -a bow
nGulula -a friction drum, usually played by young girls who sit crosslegged on the ground with a clay bowl of water at their sides. The instrument is played by pulling and sliding the wetted hands along the lenght of the reed.
isiZembe-a small curved bow
These selections are a brief impression in sound of the moods of Tongaland, a glimpse of the music of the people. Imagine a hilltop looking down onto a vast open plain; the calls of a pair of Pel’s Fishing Owls can be heard with the distant croaking of frogs and toads in the swamps. In the evening families and friends gather around their fires talking and this is when folksongs are born. Past experiences are recalled and even events of the day are phrased and sung. These songs are often only a simple phrase repeated again and again, depending upon the mood of the moment and personalities present. We hear a group of young girls practicing stamping and handclapping-surely one of the most primitive forms of music-and then they sing and dance.
Sounds one would have heard some years ago, before the guitar, mouth organ, penny whistle, concertina and the transistor radio became available
Excerpts from the liner notes of ‘Sounds of Tongaland’ by Tony Pooley 1970
pics Lake Kariba