Swazi Music and Culture

852 Words4 Pages
Swaziland has a fascinating culture that is often celebrated through its unique blend of musical styles. The country, which is landlocked by the Republic of South Africa and by Mozambique, is the last remaining country to use a system of government similar to the structure of an absolute monarchy. Although today it now has some democracy, most of the power still lies with their ruler, King Mswati III. In 2004, a humanitarian crisis was declared in Swaziland because the country was experiencing drought, land degradation, increased poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Ultimately, the devastating conditions in Swaziland have led to a distinctive musical style and culture which strive to inspire hope in the hearts and minds of its people. HIV and AIDS have had the most significant and destructive impact upon Swaziland. Nearly two-fifths of the country’s adults are estimated to be affected by HIV/AIDS, which is one of the highest infection rates in the world. This epidemic has resulted in Swaziland having higher infant mortality, higher death rates, and a life expectancy of twenty-seven. One reason the spread of HIV/AIDS is so difficult to contain is the polygamous nature of Swazi culture. Men are encouraged by their society to marry as many women as possible, which makes it easy for sexually transmitted diseases to spread. Instead of giving up hope, the people of Swaziland have joined in solidarity to overcome the country’s deteriorating conditions. Through local customs and music, Swazis strive to vocalize their conditions and raise their spirits. Their two most important cultural events are the Incwala and the Umhlanga. The Umhlanga, or Reed Dance, takes place every year in August or September. The Reed Dance is a day long ceremony t... ... middle of paper ... ...cept for a few key differences. The bridge at where the strings are pulled over is much higher on a kora than on a lute and its body is much more rounded and wider. Its sound is similar to that of a harp when played in the traditional style, however, the defining characteristic of the kora is that an ostinato riff can be played simultaneously with a lead run. While one might expect the citizens of Swaziland to create a downtrodden and oppressed style of music and culture due to their immense oppression and deteriorating conditions, they have come to resemble a certain variety of optimism from which we all can learn from. Through defining events such as the Incwala and Umhlanga, their culture remains a strong and essential part of the Swazi way of life. Swaziland has made its mark on the music world through distinctive instruments and inspiration to last a lifetime.

More about Swazi Music and Culture

Open Document