Edutainment mix: Folk music in the preservation of cultural heritage

Black Umfolosi is another example of artists who have also been predominant in using “imbube” accappella choir style of singing as they have songs such as “inombela njiba” and the song “ingoma yakwethu.

Folk music has played an important role in telling stories of how our world and civilisations have grown.

September is the month where we celebrate the mbira and I like how the cosmos of the mbira fuses with folk music especially within our Zimbabwean context.

Among all the genres of music around the world, folk music has to be and is the most important one in a society and culture. As the name suggests, folk is the music of the people.

Folk never eliminates people and culture from its lyrics and rhythms. It keeps the people connected to their past and their culture.

The songs crafted by folk musicians serve as a snapshot of their experiences as they lived through many important moments throughout time.

These songs, and the traditions associated with them, create a rich tapestry that makes understanding the great importance of folk music all the more important and hence an effective edutainment tool.

As an artist, I put focus on the importance of story telling as a critical way that can help educate and it conscientises the society on different salient issues.  In my approach, I infuse poetry and singing to write music with a premise on edutainment which is something that has been effective in sending out the message to a wider audience.

The preservation of the history is an important part of folk music.

Throughout history, we have used music to tell the stories of our people.

Because the music and lyrics are often simple, children learn the songs at a young age. This has even made it possible for songs to outlive the cultures that created them.

Each country has different types of folk music. From town to town, village by village this can be changed.

Different music instruments or styles of folk music maybe used. For example in West African countries like Mali and Senegal, the griots are an example of folk musicians and story tellers passing traditions that have lasted for thousands of years.

In Zimbabwe, I can give the example of musicians like Otto and the Mutapa calling who have a folk song titled “gandanga” it fuses the marimba as an instrument and is sung in Shona documenting the liberation struggle and description of the freedom fighter.

“Fodya” and “mabharabhara” are other folk songs that have been sung by Linos Wengara Magaya  and Zimbaremabwe Mbira Vibes.

These are typical Shona folk songs telling and documenting the deeper histories and experiences from past generations being told to the current generation. 

 It is of note that musicians like the late Chiwoniso Maraire, Thomas Mapfumo and the late Oliver Mtukudzi are examples of other highly prominent folk musicians that have incalculated folklore in their music and managed to export the music to a wider audience internationally.

Black Umfolosi is another example of artists who have also been predominant in using “imbube” accappella choir style of singing as they have songs such as “inombela njiba” and the song “ingoma yakwethu.

Other Ndebele folk songs are also taught within schools to children and hence pass the culture and traditions for example “we maNcube”, “kudala kwakunganje” and “Juba mboleka”  which are infused with Ndebele traditional dances such as Isitshikitsha.

For example, villages in Matabeleland will sing their songs in the Ndebele language native to the area with the common use of rattles “amahlwayi”, clapping and “ingungu” which are drums, whereas villagers from Mashonaland will sing in Shona with the common use of mbiras and ngoma which are the drums and hosho.

These resonate with the centrality of the preservation of culture, tradition and the strengthening of the principles of ubuntu. Many of the folk songs have a message that they convey and it is a message that relates to the issues of teaching on good behaviour, spirituality and respect particularly on the part of the youth.

Folk music also offers a gateway to our own past. In Zimbabwean history, folk music has played an important role in many counterculture and protest movements such as in the context of the liberation struggle. For older adults suffering from memory loss, the folk songs of their youth can be used to jog memories and improve their quality of life.

Music is about connecting people in every sense. Folk tunes create a bridge between people that otherwise might not exist. It helps establish connections between generations and to others within our community, bringing them together with a shared history and purpose. The struggles faced and overcome by one person in our history can serve as inspiration and motivation for those that follow.

One of the keys to understanding the great importance of folk music is knowing that many of the stories told in the lyrics are crafted to serve as a metaphor. We use music to help teach the values, norms, and ideals of our culture, so it would only make sense that not everything from the song should be taken as fact. There are also cases throughout history where folk songs were used to hide messages. This shows the power of folk music in opening the minds of the listeners and the audience making them put across their interpretations to the meaning of the song. 

Society needs to remember their past and keep it alive. Your past provides the right direction to our future. Music plays an important role in keeping our past alive as a society or a group, and folk is the genre playing the most significant part of this.

Joys and sorrows are pertinent parts of human life and they live and die with the person. Folk is the art of telling and narrating stories of joys and sorrows people have been living with. This genre doesn’t rely on modernized instruments and narrates all the stories in the simplest way using instruments such as the mbira which we celebrate on the month  of September. All you need is something to say and emotions to express and let the artistic cosmos take its place.

 Do not ever let folk die to keep your past alive, because if the history dies, future become meaningless and you lose your aim.

  • Raymond Millagre Langa is a musician, orator, writer and the founder of Indebo Edutainment Trust Follow Millagre Ray Langa on Facebook #Millagre Ray L, e-mail [email protected]. You can reach out to  Indebo Edutainment Trust on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [email protected]


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