Rustler's Valley - Tribute Event to Frik Grobbelaar - 2008
Images of the Event in Tribute to Frik.
Rustler's Valley (Before the last fire)
The Saucery The Saucerers
Arena by night , moonlit Hobbit house by moonlight
Laundry day in the village
Great West African Drum Masters visit the Free State.
During early Rustlers Festivals it became obvious that Djembe drumming was going to become big in the future so Rustlers started pioneering drum workshops in the Eastern Free State importing a string of a great drum masters from West Africa to run three or four drum workshops a year since 1996.
The great masters that have visited the Eastern FreeState over the last eight years include:
Eugene Ansah, the Lead Drummer of the award winning Ghanaian Odehe Dance Company where he is the lead instructor teaching drumming and dancing to international students.
He has also performed widely in Europe, particularly Germany and Norway
Kotei Djanie is an experienced drummer, musician, dancer and instructor, with an impressive record of performances and collaborations in Ghana and other African countries. Popularly known as 'Africa' because of his love for African traditional clothing and culture, He has also collaborated with various popular contemporary artists, including Kojo Antwi, Daddy Lumba, Afro Moses, as well as the acclaimed Ghanaian divine drummer, Kofi Ghanaba.
Elie Kihonia, the founder of Afrika Yetu and UMOJA African Arts Company. He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and exposed to both traditional and neo-traditional African music and dance at an early age. As a multi-instrumentalist who plays African percussion and contemporary instruments, his expertise includes the xylophone, mbira, hand and set drums, keyboard, accordion and guitar. While in Zaire, Elie Kihonia developed his passion for keeping the roots of African arts alive, and he became a pioneer in intermixing traditional and neo-traditional music. In 2002, Elie made history in Salvador/Bahia, Brazil participating with his group of ten percussionists from various African countries, who led a parade of 600 percussionists from Brazil in the first African Carnival ever done in Brazil.
Lena Slachmuijlder is an American/Belgian by birth who has lived and worked in various African countries for the last 14 years.
She is a founder member of the all-percussion ensemble Umgqumo weAfrica, formed with master timbila player Karimona Chissambule from Mozambique. In Burundi since 2001, she often accompanies Burundian, Rwandan and Congolese musicians, including Ben Rutabana, Aaron Tounga and Kidumu during their concerts in Bujumbura.
Other master drummers that have run workshops at Rustlers include - Emmanuel Gomado, Nii Tettey Tetteh, Nii Alabi Bortey, James Akakpo, Diana Kissi, Yao Atsu, and Cletus Etse.
Over the years, these masters of the drum have expressed their view of drumming in the greater human context and here we have a distillation of what they told their students:
We are rhythmical beings, and drumming is the simplest thing that we, as strangers can do together to communicate.
Drums speak to a cross-section of society, and that cross-section is coming together in the numerous drum circles, both new and old, that exist. Musically, they cover the globe - from Latin America to the Caribbean, Africa to the Middle East. But they all serve a common purpose: connecting one human being to another, beat by beat. Drumming circles open portals to alternate realities facilitating a merging of the physical and spiritual realms. They expedite communication with helping spirits and draw them in. The drumming circle also links the consciousness of each participant to the web of life. It develops a continuous, shared consciousness with all of creation.
The drum has been used for healing purposes throughout the world for thousands of years, in tribal societies with their shamanic traditions to communicate with the spirit world, as well as a tool for social integration and to restore harmony. According to West African wisdom teachings, emotional disturbance manifests as an irregular rhythm that blocks the vital physical energy flow. As regular even rhythms are regarded as a sign of health, these rhythms can heal the person by touching him or her in an immediate and powerful way, removing blockages and releasing tension. Thus, dance and drumming serve as preventive remedies, and they help people to become more aware and balanced.
The modern drum circle is simply a celebration of life. Those who regularly partake go to play and to listen, to express themselves and to meet others, to laugh, to dance, to pray and to heal. People come because they have this almost tribal need, this internal, intrinsic need to let themselves loose and be free, to let these rhythms flow out of them.
One of the most powerful aspects of drumming and the reason people have done it since the beginning of being human is that it changes people's consciousness. Through rhythmic repetition of ritual sounds, the body, the brain and the nervous system are energized and transformed. When a group of people play a rhythm for an extended period of time, their brain waves become entrained to the rhythm and they have a shared brain wave state. The longer the drumming goes on, the more powerful the entrainment becomes. It's really the oldest Holy Communion.
In a drum circle, all players are equal, regardless of musical ability. The group vibration speaks beyond conscious thought, deep into each person's subconscious, into their bodies, and into their souls. When the pulse succeeds in creating entrainment amongst the players, the circle is intimately connected beyond words or logic. A sense of oneness and pure joy may occur. A connection to being part of the human race may occur. A connection to mother Earth may occur. This healing shift of consciousness occurs according to the willingness of each participant to be lost in the rhythm, yet not losing awareness of the rhythm. To reach this place one must let go of any thoughts of judging their playing or the playing of others, or any perception of being judged, a place where ego and every day concerns cease to exist. That is the magic of the drum circle. We need to dance and drum as much as every other culture throughout history. We need times to be in our body instead of our heads and to feel the ecstasy of letting go.
Hundreds of people have been through the drum workshops at Rustlers and so for many people the home of South African drumming is in the Eastern Fr5ee State.
People of all ages are taking up drumming in astounding numbers. At a grass roots level, small drumming circles are gathering in communities all across the country. Since there are no prerequisites to drumming, anyone can join in. While some drumming circles are content to jam and make a lot of rhythmic noise, others prefer to explore intricate patterns of rhythm, and still others gather for shamanic drumming.
Drum workshops are more structured and are always led by experienced and acclaimed Master Drummers. Participants at previous workshops have described them as a "breakthrough" for their drumming technique and style. For others, the workshops have deepened their appreciation for the complex African rhythms, songs and dances that they have learned. For anyone who is linked in any way to drumming and rhythm be it as a teacher/facilitator, a performer or simply someone who enjoys jamming with friends these workshops are constructive.
The Conquered Territory
Historically the Eastern Free State is known as " The Conquered Territory" since it became part of the Free State in the late 1800s as a consequence of a war fought between the Free State settlers and the Basotho. Geographically it constitutes the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, otherwise known as the " Roof of Africa. "
Rustlers Valley lies at the heart of this beautiful area and must have appeared a magical place in the mists of antiquity because its altitude precluded the existence of the many debilitating African diseases like malaria, bilharzias and sleeping sickness.
The central sandstone ridge that forms the backbone of the valley, Nyakalesoba, is the spitting image of Mapangubwe. The centre of a sophisticated trading civilization dated at 900 AD and found just north of the Kruger Park. The people of this centre mysteriously deserted Mapangubwe in the 1400s. The bulk of them apparently moved north to establish what are now known as the Zimbabwe ruins. Mapangubwe has been declared a national heritage site.
I would argue that some of these people venturing south would have recognized the similarities between these two mountains and this is probably one of the reasonswhy the valley was considered an important sacred place. If one adds to this the fact that this area of the Highveld has had human occupation for 100,000 years it is not surprising that the area has a rich and ancient cultural heritage.
Rustlers Valley, contrary to popular perception, is not newly named. It is a name the hidden valley has had since the war in . because cattle stolen in the west were hidden there before crossing the Caledon river under cover of darkness. This valley forms part of the greater valley complex of Mautse. The home of the ancestral spirits of southern african peoples and is revered as " the place of the holy water "referring, I believe to the water bubbling out of the high sandstone ridges. The area is rich in rock paintings and visually has changed very little since those ancient times.
The valley known traditionally as Mautse Valley has been regarded as a place where Sangomas stay in order to meet and be directed by their ancestors. The sangomas address the needs of a patient on a medical (plant medicine), psychological, and spiritual level. Becoming a Sangoma can be viewed as a calling and is like any other spiritual path but they also constitute a sub culture needing their own space for development. They undertake to live under the rock overhangs in the valley as a means of purposeful suffering to develop their level of spirituality. According to ancestral belief a Sangoma cannot deny his calling.
There are an estimated 200,000 indigenous traditional healers in South Africa, and up to 60% of South Africans consult these healers. Currently there are about 200 sangomas living in the valley, which makes it one of the most important religious sites in South Africa. Sangomas from all the tribes of South Africa gather here creating a vast cross cultural exchange of knowledge, thus allowing each culture to enrich its own Sangoma traditions. In this way the Sangomas develop more effective and holistic cures. The valley is known to all Sangomas in South Africa, and is a crucial referral system for Sangomas with difficult patients. Thus the valley may be viewed as a self-sufficient health care system, which caters for the spiritual, physical and psychological aspects of all its patients. The number of people requiring healing at the valley demonstrates the importance of this sacred site.
The Sangomas are aware of the need for Western medical care for certain ailments and cross refer to medical institutions, although this is not always necessary as they have a reputation for being able to deal with particularly difficult conditions such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, cancer and AIDS. There is research currently being conducted in South Africa on plants used by the Sangomas. An example would be the commonly used Inkomfe (zulu) Hypoxis heterocallidea. This plant has been used for the isolation of the chemicals Rooperol and b-Sitosterol in the treatment of hypertrophy. The same plant was investigated in Zimbabwe in 1996 as a putative non-toxic pro- drug for the treatment of HIV and certain cancers (Van Wyk, Van Oudtshoorn and Gericke 1997)
Many plants used by the Sangomas are effective for treating a broad spectrum of illnesses and scientific research is now beginning to validate this type of medical intervention.
The valley also serves as a crucial training centre for Sangoma practices in South Africa and new students can be ordained here. The training may be likened to that of a university in that it functions as a cross-cultural information network. Their ancient knowledge is disseminated asw an oral communication and ancestral contact. The Sangomas view this particular valley as the dwelling place of the ancestral spirits. It may be concluded that the valley has the status of a sacred site, a church, a training institute, a rural hospital and a home to many healers.
The mountain Bushmen, now extinct, obviously revered this valley in a similar way as the rock painting of a spiritual portal between realms painted on the rock walls reveals. Because of the long period of human habitation, I am sure that there is layer upon layer of cultural and spiritual activity related to this valley.
The above articles courtesy of Frik Grobelaar