Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Stories behind the story of my African mornings

The happening of:
African Morning Song – My Symphony of a Morning in Africa
Characters: African red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus nigricans), the first singer of the morning,
canaries, lovebirds,
and more birds that begin to chirp in, usually:
the turtledoves first,
and then Bokmakiere (bush shrike – Telophorus zeyonus),
with the song of Piet-my-vrou, (red chested cuckoo Cuculus Solitarius
(the Afrikaans name derived from the singing of the bird. It is rumored that when they sing the specific song, that rain is on the way.)
And of course the busy bees who’d begin scouting as soon as the first sunrays come rushing over the horizon.
More characters are mentioned where relevant.

The prelude begins in my bed as I wake up, which would be around four o’clock during the southern Summer, ca 16minutes before the African Bulbul begins to sing.

A baby was born in the early hours, it rained, I had my meditation and there was a celebration shortly after breakfast time before everybody got onto their daily chores.
All these memories came to seven movements.


(This was when I discovered my own music back chats me, orders me around and decides when it shall be done.....)
Okay, so I learned a teeny bit about what a symphony is and thought that these stories will make up one fancy bit of listening for me, remembering all those good things I experienced in my life. Alas..... (then I also discovered my music makes its own rules, it took advantage of me since I didn't know what rules there are in music, wrote like a sheep about it in My Music, My rules earlier)

At first I thought it would be four movements, prelude, prayers, breakfast and the finale. I’ve read somewhere that a symphony contains four movements. Okay, I wanted to do it.

But this symphony kept telling me its not over yet. The prelude had to be split into two parts, the actual waking up in my bed and the rain. It was that rain part that had me sort of locked for quite a while. I didn’t understand much of it and thought parts of it sounded terrible. I removed it from the original prelude.

Then, after I had split the two parts I knew something was missing. I had to be honest about the rain - accept thunder as part of a good rainfall. It almost always is in some areas where I lived in South Africa, in any case. But this was the emotion one that I didn't like. Then, when I listened again to Stravinsky’s Firebird, watched how he demands the story from his orchestra... I knew what I had to do.

So then, the symphony happened, I woke up, the rain came, I had my meditation and breakfast. There I had my symphony with four movements.

Nope, during the breakfast part I first had to wake the people up, (tsk tsk, of course silly, you being awake doesn't mean that all your characters are awake yet) then breakfast, bush telegraph (drums) and when the plenty talking happened I got the hint that I had to refer to the baby that was born early that morning. Okay, five then, the sun that breaks over the horizon is shining in my eyes, I can almost not keep them open as I sing my lullaby for the new baby. What a great finale.

Nope, we shall celebrate the baby, we have gifts to give. Okay, we had a big feast, so surely six movements are good and what a grand finale of giving gifts!

Nope, you cannot party all day HAMBA! HAMBA! you’ve got to hurry on with the day. Fine then, seven movements. The day was in full swing and at last the morning was over!

At the time with hamba! hamba! another song also came to me with my daughter who was going to marry her dream man. While working on hamba! hamba! it suddenly felt as if she was sitting in my arm, saying “Ma, I’m getting married”. That very moment, as if in a trance, I saved my work and began a new composition which I finalized before continuing with my morning song’s hamba! hamba! And, somehow in this last movement, as the ladies go about their chores to wash laundry at the stream, they are talking about the wedding of one of them. This part of the wedding talk is not contained in the song I wrote for my daughter, it is another one that began forming which I yet have to compose. It is ready to come out, I just don’t have all the time to answer all the music or it would have been composed already.

I dare draw a conclusion with this experience, that many of the songs in me are all part of specific networks. Maybe one symphony is only a movement of a far greater symphony? It is in any case about the things in life as they happen. Maybe life has always been my symphony, or at least the way I see it sometimes.

Area: outskirts of Windhoek, Namibia.
It was still dark. Next to my rented mobile home (a “Plettenberghuis, which is actually a huge glorified caravan) was a dry riverine with dense bushes and trees and plenty wildlife. I often had a visit from “Mr Rooimeerkat” (Cynictis penicillata) a reddish type of mongoose of Southern Africa. I felt okay with him around, they’re masters in combating snakes. And there are some real nasty ones in Africa, some can pack a lethal punch.

It was in these wild bushes on that early morning sometime after half past three that it happened. I just woke, negotiating whether to have my java or still snuggle. The first birds, usually the songsters, woke and began to sing as during any other morning.

Yet, that morning, suddenly, I became part of them, all my senses became as magnified receptors for my soul, my heart – the perfumes of wild shrubs drifting through my window, a hush in the breeze, small nocturne animals rushing home in the underbrush, I could about hear each single leaf making its own sound, I recognized all the textures I’ve touched in my life of this wonderful nature in all these sounds and smells… it was as if my spirit floated away from my body – up to this day I still experience looking at myself in my little bed, listening and becoming one with it all.

The magnificence happened in a flash, intense and very pleasant. The song came rushing. It took me a long time afterwards to remember it all. The following verse was the initial one, bad grammar and all, that I feverishly jotted down when I ‘returned’ – there was so much to try and remember, I never wanted to forget that experience, it was so good. I wanted to take it with me for the rest of my life, pack it out on rainy days, listen to it when there is noise….

The verses altered later as more memories came back to me, painting the exact picture I experienced.

Initially, I titled it:
The first notes of the Morning Song
Slowly began to ring
When canaries and lovebirds
Awake and start to sing.
The staccato notes of the francolin
Reaching a crescendo, then fade….
Suddenly, all your children are awake.

All these memories came back to me through the following years, I wrote many more poems and of course played the music of the prelude on my old guitar, singing a bit about it. Yet, I never knew then how big this experience actually was.

I was in a fever, finishing a next track. Done. Oh no, during playback I knew there is more. I discovered that I have to ‘enter’ into this strange new world and find those memories, hear each single voice again, shapes, movements....

Aaah, that was suddenly okay. I do have my morning prayers, this time it was with bird song, praising the Grand Maestro for our beautiful new day. The scenes that moved into my vision was the baby I delivered as well as my own child when she was born, and the Lullaby came.

Stories behind the The Gift and the Lullaby
caution: "THE GIFT"  is a most joyful, serious party time. Dance wild, at will!!
(there are two gifts, a baby donkey and a white chicken)
The baby I delivered is the first grandchild of a dear Nama couple, Anna and Adolf I knew those years in the Dordabis district of Namibia. The conversation that came between Anna and myself is contained in The Gift. This happened December 1988

It was an average morning, all going swell. Then Anna pops around, telling me that the baby is coming, I have to deliver the baby.
“Nei Anna, I had only one child, you had many more, you have the experience. But I will help you,” I replied to her but she just said “Nei, it is you that have to deliver this baby,” with a chuckle and a secret smile “but I’ll help you.” she added.

Anna wouldn’t take no for an answer and I panicked, a baby is so fragile when she arrives in this world, there are so many things to take care of, I was so scared I could cause the baby harm.

I knew Anna meant what she said because she just went on with her business, ignoring me - and suddenly I sprang into action. Ordering the “donkey” to be fired up for hot water, pots and kettles on the roaring wood stove to have boiled water. Then I ran to meet the mommy-to-be and her nervous husband. I still had my athletic legs and could cover 200m in 23 seconds flat though I think that day I was flying……

Each cell in my body zoomed into this young woman in labour with her first child. She was okay, but contractions were uneven and I knew she might be a bit stressed up. I was stressed up, just the previous day we were at the clinic, she told them the baby is near, yet they said to her she has to go home, the baby is far from being due.

That was a mighty long drive on bumpy farm road until the main road, and then still a long while before we’d reach the clinic That moment I knew I’ll help her, I wouldn’t subject her and baby to that road at all to try and reach the clinic.

The vet was also visiting the farm and I hoped he would assist. He only send some sterile needles with gut and a scalpel blade over. Ugh, what a friggin fart, I thought. Oh well, at least I then had sterile gut to tie the umbilical chord and the blade to cut it.

When the time was in, we were a team, Anna, Mommy-to-be-, unborn Baby and I. Anna supported her Daughter-in law and I was ready for that teeny little baby. It was glorious, something I’ll never forget - to have delivered that brand new little human being, the first one to touch her, to assist her in taking her first breath…..bind and cut the umbilical cord. Somehow, I just knew what to do the whole time. Then Anna ‘relieved’ me from the new Mommy to care for this most precious little bonnie baby. I bathed her, she was so soft, so new, so innocent.

How can this not be music, of course this experience is music, totally music. Talking and singing to a brand new baby, that is natural.

On my birthday shortly afterwards, Adolf presented me with a donkey foal, my gift. I felt so awkward to receive this from people who don’t have much, but my humble argument was not accepted. Who can in any case fight things from the heart? This was a proud grandfather, happy to present me with a gift from their family.

I had to name the little cutie in Adolf’s presence. I called him “Oujaar” (direct translation "old year" which means New Year’s Eve. Here, the Afrikaans language had the nicest name I could give the donkey)

My little digital orchestra plays that part so nice: “Oujaar my donkey, Oujaar my donkey donkey donkey”. Shall I say how much I love baby donkeys? I absolutely adore them, they are so pretty. Of course his voice is also heard in The Gift.

The chicken that can be heard in The Gift is from Constance, quite older than me, a sweet nanny that looked so nicely after my own child. She is from Xhosa origins. Petit, very beautiful and loving.

Those years, almost 4 decades ago, I had some rough time for a while with a brutal boyfriend, and even needed to shack with Constance for protection one night, scared and not understanding why mankind can be so deceiving. Constance cooked food and wanted me to eat, I could not, my stress levels were extremely high and she remained, watchful and caring. I slept well that night, feeling safe.

Then one day, Constance had a long weekend off and returned with a white chicken. She said she had a message from her forefathers to give me a white chicken…. To this day I cry when I remember it. I was chosen to be a messenger. When I look back at my own life, I know exactly what this means, I understand reasons why I saw and learned the way I did since I was a very small child. Truth and nothing but the truth shall be spoken. It became my motto for as long as I remember seeing any lie happening.

When I see truth that has to be spoken, I have to bring that message. People need understanding in order to have peace.

Meditation and prayers in the Morning
Morning prayer is an essential part of my life. I bring praise to my Grand Maestro for conducting the grace and beauty that happens around me. The secrets I find so early in the silence of a sleeping mankind brings precious revelations which the early songsters and I see and experience. Having a glimpse of night becoming day, hearing it is a great source of energy that fills me. Only then am I truly ready.

Every such morning is beautiful, unique, new. A great way to start a day, we have a new morning each day of our lives. To experience it every day is an enrichment. It is a song.

Waking up in Africa  …real rural Africa
Nothing beats waking up in rural Africa. One wakes as you normally do BUT the difference is the glorious silence away from a fancy artificial world.

Breathing fresh air, smelling the perfumes, a cool breeze and plenty birds singing. Starting a small fire to heat water for coffee. Surrounding villages wake and the announcers will make their music. I used the brass here to give that feeling I so often experienced.

In the distance one can see more smoke curling in lazy strands up into the sky, the bush telegraph sending messages to other villages, replying drums, announcing anything or just a simple all is okay. Aaah, and soon one smells the “pap”, a porridge made from maize and the elders sitting together, talking, children running to do their chores, leading the cattle and small flock out of their pens, and much, much more. All in a laid back atmosphere of happiness.

In "Waking up in Africa" I became aware of a kind of kwaito influence and thought that kwaito is probably the oldest form of music. This communication could have come with man’s first interaction with Nature, whether whistling or singing with birds, chasing a baddie away from the flocks, whatever. And I wonder about King David, as the young boy herding his father’s flocks, alone in Nature with the animals. We know that he was a great poet, he danced and sang which is obvious then that he had music in him. And as a child, we all know the imagination we can have…. Surely he made up many many songs while alone there in Nature. I also did when I was little, so I really wonder about this. I cannot find information that David learned music from someone....

I know how much Nature inspires me, influences me in music.

In the later part of Waking up in Africa, this kwaito form becomes really jolly as everybody, including the birds, talk and sing, mimicking each other, leading each other. I had so much enjoyment in creating that, I could go on forever doing it. It was another world, I was totally absorbed in it. It made me feel so good all the time.

I leave it to the reader and listener to feel with me, the pleasures of waking up in Africa.

It is a symphony beyond perception, mine at least. But I'll soon learn what kind of music this one is, and I am terribly curious about it.

©COPYRIGHT Dawn Els 2014

African Morning Song – My Symphony of a Morning in Africa
(Digital - my 'little people and I)
Composed and arranged by Dawn Els
Album: UPC: 3610154799353
Administered by Tono, Norway
Album or single tracks available at
and some streaming services.

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