Following last year’s A Sea-drift of Songs and its enthusiastic reception, the Re-centring AfroAsia Project presents Giraffe Humming. It follows the forced journeys of three Giraffes from Malindi to China via Malabar and Bengal in 1414. It is an exploration of the thin environmental line between our glory and violence and attempts to create a sonic landscape that allows dialogue and interplay between seemingly distinct musical and visual traditions. The harsh and fascinating story of the giraffe had to be told. Its journey over the AfroAsian seas, from Malindi to Malabar to Bengal and from there, courtesy of Zheng He, to emperor Yongle’s court, captured our imagination. As we were to discover it was three giraffes that left Malindi to reach Bengal and from there, one was to be packed and escorted to China.

 

The story had a place in the creative work of the Re-Centring AfroAsia Project we had initiated in 2016. But whereas most of our work dealt with the movement of musical forms, of people and slaves, the idea of the giraffe, the status of its bondage, the world-views around the intimacy and violence between the human and the animal, was an exciting new frontier. In this maritime nexus it also brought the possibility of a vivid conversation between East Africa, India and China. The next step was obvious: inviting creative people, like composers, artists and writers into working clusters and hoping that Zoom-like technology would work, that words and sounds could travel and that in the final instance the performance group would get together to have either a face-to-face or a streamed performance. The result? A hybrid: our Chinese colleagues could not join us given complicated health protocols, so they are being pre-recorded, pre-filmed and mixed live! Our Tanzanian, Ethiopian and Indian friends could travel, so at least a musical core will be on display.

 

Our exploration of the visual dimension involving sculptures, artwork and animations in the Sea-drift of Songs last year opened up a new world of plurimedial work, which we have taken forward this year to include puppetry. Working across and between isiZulu, seSwati, Swahili, Bangla, Malayalam, Mandarin and English was obvious, and the libretto that emerged is a combination of all these languages. Recordings of giraffe humming (which they do at night) surprised us by its musicality. The work is divided into six musical movements interspersed with giraffe humming sequences.

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TRACKS

Movement 1: Prologue

1. The Ensemble Speaks About Human Glory and Sings of Plunder (8:47)

Movement 2: From Malindi to the Arabian Seas

2. My Child Do Not Die a Stranger in a Strange Land (5:05)

3. Giraffe Humming (2:56)

4. Giraffe Soliloquy 1: What Dance is This?? Where is lurch? (3:01)

5. The Keepers Keep On Keeping On (1:35)

Movement 3: From The Arabian Seas to Malabar

6. Unsettled Seas (3:06)

7. The Keepers Keep On and Keep On (3:05)

Movement 4: From Malabar to Bengal

8. Where Does the Human End/Where Starts the Flower? (4:02)

9. Giraffe Humming (2:26)

10. Giraffe Soliloquy 2: There Has To Be Another World (4:08)

11. The New Keeper Laments the Loading of Stuff they Never Eat (3:50)

Movement 5: The Bengal Moment

12. Beneath Hofftap/Mountains Swell from Skyblood (3:10)

Movement 6: From Bengal to China

13. The Boat Songs Towards the Yangtze (4:54)

14. Forever Strangers in Stranger Lands (2:36)

15. Where Does the Human Story End? (3:14)

16. Giraffe Soliquoy  3: I yearn for Something Indistinct / Returning (2:29)

Movement 7: Closure (10:40)

Total 59:14