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Rhythm & Dance


RHYTHM AND DANCE AMONG THE BASONGORA


Basongora are one of the few cultural communities in the world that do not dance on their feet. Basongora sit or stand and only move their arms and hands, so that the torso remains still or exhibits only minimal rhythmic swaying. Leg movements are quite out of the question during performances. 


Even when standing - as men or younger women are won’t to do sometimes even if it’s not considered proper form - the Songora dancer will remain in one place, and gently rock the torso and head while using the raised arms in controlled wave patterns.  The hand and arms are outstretched and raised to shoulder level or raised above the head, palms facing down or directly in front, or facing sky, and they they are swayed either entirely or from the elbow and up. 


The women also never stand when performing, but sit on the ground and move only their arms, hands and heads. When performing Enanga woman and girls are supposed to sit down and to cover their heads  - but not their faces - with a “shuka” cloth - “kwetwendekyer’ra”. Despite the physical self-restraint, an ensemble of performing Basongora is lively, dignified and can be quite exciting to watch. The “dance” of the Basongora requires them to sit down and “throw” their hands and arms - “kunaga emikono”. This “throwing of the arms” is done rhythmically and tastefully and when done properly is quite beautiful. 


The movements of the arms and hand movements are varied. Some of the movements are meant to resemble or evoke many things associated with the life of Basongora, including the rhythm and formation of the horns of a cow that is walking leisurely, or possibly a cattle egret in flight. However, the performance with the arm throwing patterns is not strictly always imitative of cattle horns. 


It is notable that Basongora are the only culture in Central Africa that does not use drums for music. The only percussion instrument used by the Songora is the calabash, usually sawn in half so that it makes a large bowl that, when placed open face on the ground, makes sound like a drum. Another kind of calabash used for percussion is large and doughnut-shaped with two large holes one on top and the other at the bottom. Striking with the hand or the knuckles plays the calabash. The act of striking the calabash is known as “Ku-Lasir’ra”.    


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