Courtesy Reuters

The Fabric of African Cultures

Mother-of-someone, Come out and see: here's a son-in-law, he brings rain and cold.

Sister, daughter-of-someone, you go to the home of strangers; do you truly desert your mother?

Come out and see your daughter's gown; our bride she's wrapped in silk.

You're so fair, girl, so fair: What had you to do with such a coalblack groom?

What had you to do with me, my girl?- you found me in such rags.

Come my love, let's run away to shanty town, tin-and-sack town, let's run away and lose ourselves in shanty town. The girl said No-no, my Ma will come for me Pa will kill me. I'll go alone, then, I'll find another bride and lose myself in shanty town. No, don't go, my love, I won't come but don't go. And I went to shanty town and broke to pieces-pieces the heart of my beloved.

THE music floats in the night across the vast complex of African townships (or "locations" as they are called in South Africa). It is heard in all parts of this black metropolis because it is a loud and robust music. The singing dancers-all young men and women and boys and girls-stamp it out on the street each night for a whole month before a wedding until it sounds as if the musicians were trapped in a sunset-to-midnight orgy. The friends of the prospective groom and bride come and join in the dance and song. And so the theme of the music unfolds.

The second lyric quoted above, unlike the first, tells the story of delinquency. There is a ring of urgency in the words. And as the moon goes down, as if poised for a slow-motion hurtle behind the horizon, the musicians disperse. Tomorrow night again, they will sing. And here the city boy and girl have come in at a certain point of cultural continuity, a continuity that is being lived by country folk. The music is still intact; only the lyrics are

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