Monday, November 07, 2005

Kanye Mambo

This means “thank you” in Shangan, one of the major tribal languages in Southern Mozambique. For many Maputans, Shangan is their first language and they are pleasantly surprised when foreigners can say even a simple thank you in their native tongue. I get many smiles when I say “Kanye Mambo” to the venders in the market and they have often have a heartfelt laugh as I try to continue with my broken Portuguese. Kanye Mambo is also the name of an organization here in Maputo that takes care of orphaned children. They provide lodging, basic education, job training and nutritious meals to nearly 200 children aged 5-18.

Last Saturday I got to attend their 21st anniversary celebration held just north of the city by Costa da Sol. The whole event was organized by Lena Maguia, a woman whose name is synonymous with social development here in Mozambique, and she was gracious enough to invite us out to enjoy the festivities. We were treated to traditional songs and dances performed by the kids and a tour of the organization’s facilities. I’ve been kicking myself about million and one times for not bringing along my camera because the pictures were absolutely priceless. The kids were adorable and their songs just melted my heart. It was amazing to see the joy in these children’s eyes as they sang and laughed with their friends at the center. It was a beautiful scene but I couldn’t help but think about the thousands of other orphaned children in Maputo, not to mention the rest of the country, that were not fortunate enough to a part of a caring organization like Kanye Mambo. When you work in this field of development, you sometimes just can’t escape that helpless feeling of not being able to reach everyone in need.

We were then treated to an HIV/AIDS presentation by the high school kids in the organization, a humorous skit the cut to the core issues of HIV/AIDS prevention and the importance of discussing the disease openly with each other. Then the women who had been working in the kitchen all day had their turn to shine. These women, not one of them under the age of 40, came out strutting their stuff and singing traditional Shangan songs and each taking turns to perform traditional dances. I don’t know how to describe the dancing other than highly energetic, combining tons of jumping, kicking and stomping movements. I couldn’t believe how fast these women could move and the whole crowd was loving every minute of it, encouraging the dancers with their shouting and clapping. The dancing cooks then bounced and sang all the way back to the kitchen where they soon produced a bountiful feast of African delicacies. And of course, it just wouldn’t be a Mozambican party without the Laurentina flowing like water.

After dinner the party just kept getting better. A bunch of guys soon broke out the traditional Mozambican drums and marimbas, an instrument that looks like a huge xylophone, and got the whole crowd moving to the rhythms of Shangan tribal songs. A Shangan dance troup was even on hand to treat the crowd to a spectacular display of traditional dancing. I have to say, Shangan dancing is quite sexually suggestive, with the men and women going through the movements at an EXTREMELY fast pace. I couldn’t believe what happened next though. I was standing in the front row of the crowd with Ruth Dueck-Mbeba and we were both pulled into the middle of the circle to dance in front of the whole crowd. Now for all of those who know me, you’ll know that I’ve certainly not been blessed with any skills on the dance floor. In fact I’ve always said that I have three strikes against me before I even get out of my seat: I’m tall, white and Mennonite!! However, despite not having any serious rhythm in my hips, I enjoy dancing a ton and don’t mind making a fool of myself all in the name of a good time. So there I was, shaking my stuff and jumping around like a madman in front of hundreds of laughing and clapping Africans. Before I knew it, most of the crowd had joined the dancing festivities and I was getting down with 50 year old Shangan women who were getting a kick out of dancing with this Canadian stranger. Good times all around!

Oh and last night I checked out the Oliver Mtukudsi and the Black Stripes concert. For all of you who were at the Winnipeg Folk Festival this past year you’ll remember that Oliver played on the main stage on Saturday night. He’s absolutely incredible and is one of the biggest musical sensations in Southern Africa and is a national hero in his home country of Zimbabwe. I cannot recall many bands that I’ve seen that are as professionally refined and choreographed as these guys. They are currently on a continental tour of Africa and played two sold out nights here in Mozambique. Maputo gets about as many big name touring acts as Flin Flon, Manitoba, so it creates quite a buzz when a well know international performer comes to town. It was a real blessing for me to catch the show and be a part of the overwhelmingly appreciative crowd. Kanye Mambo, Muito Obrigado, Thank you Oliver!!


Blogger Sean said...

do you have a guitar out there? are you sharing music with them as well? I'm sure you are, and I'm sure that it's an awesome exchange.

12:42 p.m.  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

no, no guitar yet. Music stores are very expensive here. Keeping an eye out though for street vendors. Gotta love that African informal economy.

12:33 a.m.  
Anonymous mom said...

You inherited those dance moves from your father.

7:33 p.m.  
Anonymous Patrick said...

You need a t-shirt that says "I’m tall, white and Mennonite!!"

It would be fun

3:19 p.m.  
Anonymous Neville said...

Hey man, you as well could be, LORD OF THE DANCE, if you just focus. Anyway, stay hard.

6:30 p.m.  
Anonymous salsa dancing said...

Hello, I want to meet some other local people who, like me, are interested in salsa dancing. I've found this site (salsa dancing). Are there any other ways of meeting similar people?
Many thanks

5:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Namogelia said...

Hi "salsa dancing": Where are you? Is it right, you're located in Mozambique? We're just planning leaving for Mozambique for at least two years - and we LOVE sala music more than anything else! Kind regards, Namogelia.

6:03 a.m.  

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