San Community of Namibia shares their music with the world

Music may account for only 4% of Africa's cultural and creative industries, but it is one of the most dynamic sectors of the continent.

Despite the efforts put in place today, access to the music market remains unbalanced. To promote equal access to cultural goods and services as well as to increase the mobility of artists, the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) invests in projects which belong to various stages of the creative value chain. Among these projects is "Namibia Tales: engaging disadvantaged communities in Nambia into the global music market” led by the Museums Association of Namibia.

The project, which concluded in December 2018, has contributed significantly to the promotion of musical expression of the San community in Southern Africa. The initiative also helped its music industry reach the international market.

To achieve this goal, four trainings with focus on the music industry were held for Namibians, with a special focus on the San community members. These sessions demonstrated the economic value of music and how traditional music can play a role in the business model. The participants also benefited from a specialized training on international marketing with view of exporting their music abroad.

"San communities as well as Namibian artists, regardless of their ethnolinguistic background, have learned to understand the economic model of music so that it can generate income in the global creative economy,” says Jeremy Silver, director of the Museums Association of Namibia.

Six concerts - three countries

The trainings resulted in a collaboration between a group of singers from the San community and Shishani Vranckx & Namibian Tales, which produced an album “Kalahari encounters" in 2017. The album received the Best World Music Album of the Netherlands in 2017.

Following the success of the album, the group consisting of Dutch musicians and San singers embarked on an European Tour in July 2018, touring in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. They have been part of the line-up at the Rudolstadt Festival, one of the largest world music festivals in Germany which receives nearly 90,000 spectators each year.

"This project is a concrete example that creative energies can overcome cultural differences. The performances also challenged the view that San culture is static. The inspiration these singers brought to San community across the neighboring countries of Botswana and South Africa will be long-lived; the community now has talented San international artists as well as a positive global representation of San traditions”, concludes Jeremy Silver.

International hits, however, are not the sole focus; the Museums Association of Namibia values the culture of people belonging to minorities such as the San community of the Kalahari Desert. During the project, nearly fifty songs and music were archived in order to establish a National Archive of Namibian Music. This initiative, in collaboration with the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), the National Archives of Namibia (NAN) and the Namibian Society of Composers and Musicians (NASCAM), will make these cultural expression more accessible.