Phillips Academy Organist Kabanda Receives Kenan Grant To Study Music in South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland

Over the summer, Organist Patrick Kabanda took advantage of his Kenan Grant to study music in various cities across South Africa, Swaziland, and Botswana. While drumming is typically viewed as the main form of African music, this is only true in West Africa. Over the course of his trip, Mr. Kabanda primarily studied the vocal and instrumental music of South Africa. Mr. Kabanda spoke with the Phillipian about his experiences. How valuable was this experience to you? It’s amazing. I am an African and I am lucky I have visited Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western Africa. We are all similar in a way. We share certain values and beliefs. It is very enriching to see people expressing themselves with music. It is really hard to explain how valuable my experiences were. South Africa, for example, is generally very, very…well-off in terms of natural resources. You go to some other countries and notice the amount of development. Also, to see how governments and ministries were trying to work out plans to deal with AIDs was amazing. All of this was very valuable information. What were the major musical differences between the countries you went to? I found out in Johannesburg, for example, that the universities are bringing in West African professors to teach West African music. They are trying to bring in instruments from other parts of Africa. They also try to use music to send a message of unity to different people of Africa. This is a major thing done in the area. In Cape Town, I met a choir who were also trying to use music to send a message of unity. South Africa is a very diverse country. In terms of scenery…it is so different. Botswana is similar to South Africa, but has fewer instruments. My regional visit was only to go to South Africa, but I was asked to go check out Botswana and Swaziland as well. What were the major differences between the countries you visited and America? The way they approach life is different. It is much slower. The women still play a big role in domestic issues. Music is a natural thing for them. They can sing a hymn and naturally harmonize it without any instruction on harmony. The cultural there is so intertwined with music. They live with it. Also America’s approach to some things are seen as an insult in African countries. It creates an uneasiness there when you are trying to mingle with them. How do you see African music developing in the future? For example, it was very difficult to find pure African music. It has many influences…and it is a mix of it all. It is really transforming. What they are doing now with traditional music is turning it into western African. I think that the future, especially the Internet, is exciting. Once people…are interested in looking for broader music, they can use the Internet to find unknown elements of music. It’s improving. There is a possibility for a tremendous growth or a “hop.”