Letter from Beira 6, Music and festivities

Music and festivities


As I approach my third month here in Beira, I am starting to feel like the time is really flying. The day before I flew out to Mozambique, I remember looking online at Mozambican national holidays and finding out that the first one wasn’t until my second month in the county. That date was 7th April, Dia da Mulher Moçambicana (Mozambican women’s day), which was nearly three weeks ago!  I spent women’s day with my colleagues at ADEL, as we all pitched in for a small celebration with nice food and drink and Mozambican music. There was lots of dancing too, but I was reluctant to get involved. Despite my dance classes with AJOMAC I am still totally hopeless!

As well as ‘International Women’s Day’ (March 8th), Mozambique has its own date to celebrate and empower women, in memory of Josina Machel, a Mozambican woman who fought for the emancipation of African Women, and sadly died very young on April 7, 1971. Machel began as a volunteer for FRELIMO’s Women’s Branch in the late 1960s, before becoming the head of the Department of Social Affairs of FRELIMO – where she held several projects and programs in aid of children and women within Mozambique. On April 7th every year, Mozambicans get together and celebrate with their friends and families to pay tribute to Josina Machel.

The next national holiday here in Mozambique is Workers Day, on May 1st. Workers Day is celebrated in a number of Southern African countries; and though I am yet to experience it, I imagine it will be just as lively as Women’s Day. I have noticed a lot of organisations take the name of 1 de Maio here in Mozambique, including schools and even professional football teams! Unfortunately, I will be leaving Mozambique just days before Independence Day on June 25, which I’ve been told is a truly unforgettable experience.

The main feature of Mozambican festivities is music. Even on a regular day in Beira, you can’t go anywhere without hearing music coming from somewhere; so, as you might imagine, on days of celebration this is amplified tenfold. Western ‘pop’ music is very popular here, however so are the Mozambican artists (there’s one song by Liloca that gets played everywhere you go)! More traditional music is also extremely popular – especially during celebrations – and is composed using an array of unique and interesting instruments. My housemate, Jose, owns a number of Southern African instruments, which I have been trying to learn how to play in my spare time.  Two of my favourites are ‘Timbila’ and ‘Mbira’.  

Timbila is a type of xylophone unique to Mozambique, made from wood, and can range from twenty centimetres to five or six foot in size. Often, the Timbila is played by multiple musicians to accompany a choreographed dance, with each musician playing simultaneously but at different tempos. Mbira is found in many African countries; however is unlike anything I have ever seen in Europe. It is made by attaching different metal tines onto a wooden platform, which are then plucked using your thumbs to make beautiful sounds. I am hoping to catch a live show during my time in Beira, as it would be wonderful to see these amazing instruments played professionally.

Drums are also very common within traditional Mozambican music and dance. During my dance classes with AJOMAC, the tempo is usually set by someone banging away on the ‘Batuque’ drum. One of the biggest educations I have gained during my time here is exposure to totally new traditions and cultures that receive very little attention in the U.K. I have had the opportunity to experience new music, dances, stories and many other customs that I would never have learned about had I not come here. I’ve already bought a few CDs of Mozambican music, and once I am home I will certainly make a trip to the local music shop to see if they sell any of the wonderful instruments I have learned of during my time in Beira!IMG_3342IMG_3793IMG_3794

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