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Nelson Mandela University’s professor in music Alethea de Villiers together with linguistics professor Menán du Plessis, from the University of Stellenbosch, recently published an article on songs incorporated into |Xam stories. 

Professors Alethea de Villiers and Menán du Plessis; the book with the folktales; and the historic music bow photographed by Gavin Copenhall. 

These stories were collected by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd from their ǀXam-speaking consultants in the late 19th century.

The article, “Historically informed performance: songs embedded in |Xam stories” was published in the journal, Ethnomusicology Forum and the research was made possible through ISME-SEMPRE funding.

Prof Du Plessis is a linguist in the field of comparative African languages, with a particular focus on diverse ‘Khoisan’ languages and currently compiling a grammar book and dictionary of the ǀXam language.

Although many of the stories in the Bleek–Lloyd corpus have been discussed by scholars in the fields of literature, anthropology, and history, no evidence exists that any of the songs have been performed since they were transcribed in 1879, says Prof De Villiers.

This study aims to re-introduce several songs in the ǀXam language formerly spoken by small communities of San people from the far northern sector of South Africa.

“The most significant contribution we make with this paper is that we present these |Xam songs as the earliest examples of transcribed music in South Africa based on the melodic possibilities of the music bow.

“We attempt to contextualise the songs through descriptions of the !Ui languages, music making of !Ui-speaking people, and influence of pitch production of the music bow on the song melodies,” Prof De Villiers says.

Read the article here.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160