African culture




When trying to compare and contrast the music-culture and society of the Mbuti and that of the Venda, it becomes difficult to comment on sound when we haven\'t heard any Venda music. It\'s easy to recognize that for the Mbuti the music embodies the heart of the forest, and for the Venda the relation to nature is the act of a mother giving birth. Thinking about concept and behavior this makes the music performed by the two cultures separate and distinguishable. This is where culture and environment become important factors. How noticeable is this when listening to the music of both peoples? When given the opportunity to listen, without a trained ear, it would be difficult to find differences in the sound of the music. There are obvious differences in instrumentation between the two cultures. While the Mbuti mainly performs music with their voices, the Venda use drums, flutes, and various other instruments.
There are similarities between the two groups with ‘rights of passage.\' The Venda girls perform the Domba, and the Mbuti girls practice and perform the Elima. Clear. Cultural distinctions can be made between the two groups concerning ‘rights of passage.\' When it is time for the Mbuti girls to perform the Elima, they go into a hut and are secluded from the rest of the world. The boys of the clan try to push their way into the hut to find the woman of their choice. The Venda girls performing the Domba, are out in the open and visible for the men and everyone around to see. Since the Mbuti is of the forest, and the Venda is a village-based group, there are probably many cultural traditions and practices that are very different. These differences may be difficult to distinguish with the materials available to us as Westerners. Seeing the two cultures perform live would enable a person to find differences and draw upon parallels. In both societies there is a visible comparison between the separation males and females when performing ‘rights of passage.\'
In both cultures we see a universal participation in music as a common thread to survival, and an individuality is kept within the music as it\'s being performed. The Venda believes that all human beings have the capacity to be musical. Blacking solidifies this thought when stating that, "The Venda may not consider the possibility of unmusical human beings, but they do recognize that some people perform better than others." (pg.46 Blacking, 1973) The same general concept may hold true with the Mbuti, the concept that we are all somehow children of the forest. The relationship that the Mbuti has with the outside villages for provisions and the treatment they receive in these villages can be viewed as a distinction. How close does the Venda come to resembling the village groups sited in Turnbulls research? Is this where most of the distinctions can be made? The Mbuti is primarily a forest dwelling group, relying on the forest for most of their subsistence. The Mbuti uses the molimo as their main instrument, when an elder dies, ceremonies take place using this instrument by the men. The Venda is more complex socially, and they use more instruments. Even the attitude the Mbuti has toward daily life and music seems much more relaxed and simple. Are there the same circular flow or looping patterns in the music of both cultures? Do both cultures have a downward motion in melodies? The Mbuti is very humorous with a sometimes very serious side to their humor. Does this exist at all in Venda culture? The Mbuti has a ritualistic "feeding of the molimo," using fire and water to please the spirit of the instrument. Is this sort of ritual activity common at all in the Venda? The Mbuti women usually do not participate when the molimo is present, but the music seems to break down any gender barriers as it was mentioned in class that the women, "know what\'s going on."
Western practitioners of music have the luxury of a pen and notebook paper, headphones and CD players, modern instruments and studio equipment. While the cultures we are learning about have no such luxury. Nettle takes this fact a step further by saying, "We think of a piece of