School of Arts

African Music and Dance Students Screen Documentaries

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At the screening of their films are students (from left) Mr Siphamandla Ngcobo, Ms Lihle James, Ms Nomfundo Zuma and Mr Eric Sunu Doe.
At the screening of their films are students (from left) Mr Siphamandla Ngcobo, Ms Lihle James, Ms Nomfundo Zuma and Mr Eric Sunu Doe.

Three Applied Ethnomusicology African Music and Dance (AMD) Honours students and a Doctoral student from the Music discipline recently screened debut short films.

The Honours students, Ms Lihle James, Ms Nomfundo Zuma and Mr Siphamandla Ngcobo, presented their films as part of their module: Ethnographic and Video Documentation of Ritual and Performance, while Mr Eric Sunu Doe who is studying towards his PhD, also screened his film.

The filmmaking was supervised by Senior Lecturer, Dr Patricia Opondo. The short documentary films by the Honours students were recorded, edited and produced as part of their fieldwork for the first semester, marking their debut in research.

Titled UMAKHWEYANE: ‘The Sound of the Indigenous Bow’, Ngcobo’s production showcases the story of how the bow instrument is made while also giving insight on how it is played and used in performances. ‘My documentary is relevant to African Music and Dance because it aims to preserve identity and culture through the indigenous traditional bow music instrument. Umakhweyane carries African Identity, our history and sense of home,’ he said.

James’s documentary examines a group of UKZN students studying science but are passionate about music. ‘The students who appear in the film have formed a group called THE BAND SA. Through music, these students go on a journey of self-discovery, eventually finding themselves as a group through music. For them, music and playing together is their way of escape after long hours working with chemicals,’ said James

Zuma on the other hand looked at the performance of Umzansi choreography by the Pietermaritzburg Indumandumane group in the Kwamafunze rural area. ‘What I found very interesting in their choreography was the idea of combining three different styles of Zulu dance, namely Ushiyameni, Indlamu and Umzansi into one performance piece.

‘It was super creative of the group to use one rhythm in the choreography that has three elements of different Zulu dance styles which have completely different rhythms when separated from each other. This is particularly relevant for African Music and Dance since it shows alternative ways of performing difference dance styles,’ he said.

Doe’s documentary explores the history of Ghana’s home-grown popular Highlife music and how the genre has been interpreted by successive generations. It presents the diverse styles of the genre- how these styles continue to grow and its (genre) future in the country.

‘It’s exciting to see students grow from their undergraduate performance specialisations and embark on their first Applied Ethnomusicology documentation projects,’ said Dr Opondo.

‘There’s a lot for them to cover in just one semester including completing readings, fieldwork, filming, editing and preparing an ethnographic report that accompanies the research films. Most significant is how in the near future we will be able to integrate their research into the undergraduate AMD teaching/learning materials; demonstrating how research and practice can have a conversation and for the undergraduate students to reference research conducted by alumni from the AMD program,’ said Dr Opondo.

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