About the Music

 About the Music

South African choral music integrates SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass) acapella singing with exciting rhythms and expressive movement in dynamic call and response forms. Val teaches a style, sometimes referred to as “makwaya”, that combines the harmonies and chordal texture of western hymnody with traditional African rhythms, movements, and forms.

This video is an example of a folk song in this style sung by a combined South African and American/European choir. To learn more about what singing in South Africa is like, explore Val’s South Africa travelogue.

Influenced in the late 19th century by African-American minstrelry and spirituals performed by groups such as Orpheus McAdoo and the Virginia Jubilee Singers, the makwaya choral style gained prominence in the early 20th century with mission-educated middle-class blacks seeking forms of artistic and cultural expression that combined European and African qualities. The style took root and developed in churches, schools, and community organizations, providing the fundamental framework for freedom songs during the anti-apartheid struggle. In some university and community choirs, and performance-oriented groups such as the Drakensberg Boys Choir, blacks and whites now sing this style together.  For an excellent overview of South African musical history visit Southafrica.info

The music exists in both performance and non-performance modes. Often the boundary between modes is blurry. As a vital part of everyday life, the music relates and responds to current conditions experienced by ordinary people. Present-day themes address HIV/AIDS, the struggle for women’s empowerment, the ongoing work of creating a more just society, and timeless themes of love, work, life and death.

As a living tradition, the vitality of this style is continually renewed through the contributions of an entire nation of singers for whom sharing collective song and dance is as easy as sharing food and drink.

Email Val at val@valrogers.org.