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Ongoma! Notes on Namibian Musical Instruments

Ongoma! Notes on Namibian Musical Instruments

A research on music and dance in Namibia
Mans, Minette

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Ongoma! Notes on Namibian Musical Instruments

Author: Minette Mans
Publisher: Gamsberg Macmillan
Windhoek 2000
Soft cover, 17x24 cm, 135 pages, numerous photos and illustrations


Since independence in 1990, arts education in Namibia has been undergoing significant reform, some of which is still in the planning stages.

Yet many teachers are dismayed at the lack of materials with which to bring the diversity of Namibian culture into the classroom.

This is particularly the case with respect to the teaching of music and dance.

To compound this situation, few teachers have been trained in the Western technique of reading notation, and most do not have access to electronic media, such as audio and video equipment, in the schools in which they teach.

This book came about due to the need for more information on Namibian music, musical instruments and cultural practices. A knowledge about music is not enough; learners must be given the opportunity to make music.

I have therefore attempted to indicate throughout the book how the given information can be used in the classroom. in order to encourage creative thinking (without being prescriptive), I have provided some ideas for classroom activities. Hopefully the resourcefulness of individual teachers will lead to many more ideas. The activities suggested in this book are only a beginning, and are an attempt to break away from knowledge based on facts alone.

I hope that the information provided in this book will stimulate teachers and learners alike to explore the fascinating area of Namibian culture and tradition. Learners need to (re)discover the richness and diversity of Namibian culture, and to once again play if possible, some of the old instruments which are no longer so widely in use. Of course, in some parts of the country the instrumental music described in this book is certainly alive and well! I also hope to follow up this publication with one providing a variety of songs and dances.

In the reformed school curricula the following principles are stressed:

Education should centre around the learner and the learning processes (what the learner is experiencing, discovering, remembering, and so on) rather than what has previously been understood as 'subject discipline'.

The emphasis is therefore on qualitative, expressive objectives rather than on test-related, quantitative objectives.
Learners should be actively involved in making music and dancing (doing), appraising and communicating their understanding, thoughts and feelings about what they are doing.

Learners should be developing progressively more demanding competencies in exploring, making (doing), creating, knowing, understanding and responding.

I hope this book will enable teachers to find new ways in which to achieve these goals. In order to help learners understand instrumental groupings I have described the various instruments in terms of accepted practice in ethnomusicology. In addition to the English descriptive titles, I have added local names in the various vernaculars whenever possible. Where certain languages have been left out, it is either an indication that the instrument is not traditionally used by members of that language group, or that the particular vernacular has not been established.

Notes on orthography follow this introduction. As the information in this book is based on available literature, my own research, and information gleaned from a number of people, I hope the mistakes are minimal. Where I have made mistakes in orthography descriptions of cultural practices and traditions, or any other details, these are unintentional and reflect no prejudice on my part. An extended research project has been initiated which should help to update and qualify existing information.