Trance dance in the UK
Issue 2 (May 2008) A group of San musicians and dancers from Namibia is bringing an ancient healing dance to the UK.

 

The !Gubi Family’s trip has been financed by an organisation called Indigenous People, which hopes to generate an interest in the ancient culture of the San Bushmen and so alleviate poverty within the community back in Namibia by promoting sustainable tourism.


Trance dance is as old as San culture itself, and tradition has it that their music evokes an altered state of consciousness through the rhythms and beats, enabling the musicians to enter a trance and perform healing on both individuals and the whole tribe.


The healers traditionally sing and dance throughout the night, playing the mouthbow, the mbira and the zuma – a four-stringed instrument. The trance-inducing beat is created with the ankle rattles of the dancers and the clapping of the community. Eighty-year-old Grandfather !Gubi said: “When I play music, the spirit enters me, and I connect with my ancestors, who help me to answer important questions.  People may see me playing, but I am not there, I am with my ancestors!”


His daughter Anna had polio as a child and is now paralysed from her waist down. She has a hauntingly beautiful voice and is one of the best chanters in the region where she lives. “Our music is very powerful and heals people of their ills.  It also tells the stories of our people, from the old times, when we would have to walk all day on the burning sands to find water, or it captures the spirit of the animal so that we are successful in our hunt,” she said. The group’s youngest member, Anna’s son John, writes some of their songs, including a track called Machisa San Boys. He says “It is a song that I wrote that says to the people, ‘here come the hot San boys, look at how great they are.’”

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