Galalabadimo // Sãn Kalahari Desert Vocal and Instrumental Music Cassette
30 years ago today I was sat round a fire deep in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana, Africa. Approaching midnight, every generation of the San people Galalabadimo settlement singing polyphonic chants which likely go back centuries, the younger ones stomping barefoot in the sand to create deep rhythm tones to accompany the poly rhythmic claps. Really ancient chants, not simple music, intricate, multi-layered, interwoven melodies. Beautiful and dark, evoking mysteries, mystery music, in-tune with the nature and wildlife surrounding it. In-tune with the spirit world ever present and evident in the raw desert lands. They would bicker, tease and laugh in between these powerful songs. It was a delight to witness them being so composed, stern and serious but in an instance burst with joy.
It's a revelation when I listen now to the Mbira player I recorded the next day, Modise Maitshwapelo; at the time I was a young musician and didn't fully appreciate the guy's skill - now after 30 more years of playing music myself I'm knocked out by how elegant and flowing, fluid and liquid his playing and touch is on this instrument. I had no idea I was recording a master Mbira player, in the land of the instrument's invention no less.
The young guy on the oil can guitar - he was with a gang of cocky lads, evidently more interested in the city than the village where I came across them (Khutse). The song he's singing references Gabarone, the capital city of Botswana. But you know music is an ever-evolving truth expresser - this Kalahari recording covers the ancient, the not-so-ancient and the mid-to-late 20th century evolution of the San music, song and song subject matter, and instrument technology. It's all valid and all a great listen.
Still can't believe I got to spend time with these friends, fellow music makers. And thank you to them all for acquiescing to my recording requests. Having disappeared off into the sunset with the recordings I hope I can now give something back by way of donation of the recordings and of the income from this production to the !Kwhwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre (khwattu.org).
I'm assured it's the most direct contribution I could make to the community, lives and culture of these people I met but lost contact with.
Thank you to my friends at Lightning Records USA who are also musicians and who I first met, and where I am now writing this text, in another of the world's great deserts - the Mojave, California.
Conrad Lambert, 2nd October 2019