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Educating Ndivhuho Luvhengo:

Music educat i on i n a r ur al envi r onment

Geoff Ma pay a, Department of Music,
University of Venda [Univen]
This article reflects on issues that are at
play when teaching music t o an African
student in a rural context. It draws f rom
my experience as a music lecturer in
the Li mpopo province. It sketches the
progress and challenges of a t hi rd year
guitar student who is studying towards
a B.Mus. degree at the University of
Venda, and his social/cultural situation.
For a South Afri can music l ecturer
who teaches in the so-called black
university, education in general assumes
an abnormal rol e. It becomes an
emoti ve matter because in black
societies music education was almost
nonexi stent pri or 1994. Even today
education standards are compromi sed
in the face of the worseni ng conditions
of learning.
South Afri can education is supposed
t o empower students f or future roles,
whi l e seeking t o redress the ills of the
past. The question of whet her our
music education can satisfy these needs
is unavoidable. In sectors of the
community, music education is
considered an elitist luxury, whi ch has
l i ttl e t o do wi t h the process of
rebuilding communi ti es, hence the lack
of support f or music education.
Case St ydy
Ndi vhuho Luvhengo was born in 1981
in Ndyelele area at the village called
Tshavhalovhedzi. In 1989, his parents
separated and he, together wi t h his
mot her and siblings, moved in wi t h his
in a village called Maungani. In
1997, whi l st still in Maungani his mother
bought a house through a scheme. The
fol l owi ng year she was retrenched and
had t o surrender the house. She moved
t o Muledani where she bought a site
and built another house.
Ndi vhuho started school at Silom
pri mary school , where he did his
substandard A and B schooling, and
then moved t o Maungani Primary
school f or standard I and 2. He
compl eted his pri mary schooling at
Beuster pri mary school and proceeded
wi t h high school education at
Thohoyandou secondary school.
Ndi vhuho became a born again
Christian in 1997 whi l e wi t h Apostol i c
Faith Mission. He then joined the
Seventh DayAdvent i st Church. He is
now attached t o the Living Wat ers
Fellowship Church.
He started formal music education
at the age of 24, and at 27, Ndi vhuho is
in his f our t h year of music studies at
the University of Venda. In t he fi rst
year, he compl eted a certificate in music
and proceeded t o B Mus where he is
currentl y in the t hi rd year.
Anal ysi s
This short case study presents issues
that are of concern f or effective learning
and are common t o most students who
are faced wi t h similar circumstances.
These issues are presented and
discussed wi t h the aim of encouraging
lecturers t o be compassionate while
fulfiling thei r duty.
Ndi vhuho experienced the breaking
down of his parents' marriage at age 8.
Also, he was the eldest of the six
children. This meant that he had,
somehow, t o support his mother, and
comf or t his siblings. For him t o succeed
he needs t o have a strong character
and an opti mi sti c atti tude.
Anot her challenge was that his
parents' separation was the beginning
of a series of moves. The first move
f rom his paternal home in
Tshavhalovhedzi t o t hat of his malome's
in Maungani was because of the
separation. The second move was
when his mot her bought a house in
Maungani, and they moved out of
malome's house. Soon after his mot her
was retrenched, and she had t o sell the
house. Wi t h the l i ttl e money she
received f rom retrenchment she bought
a site in Muledani and built a house, and
this compl eted the t hi rd move.
Anot her f orm of rel ocati on was that
Ndi vhuho changed pri mary schools
three times.
Changes also t ook place on the
spiritual f ront . From his paternal
spiritual background, Ndi vhuho joined
Apostol i c Faith Mission, and then
moved t o the Seventh-Day Adventi st
Church, and today he is wi t h the more
fashionable Living Wat ers Fellowship
Ndi vhuho moved far t oo many
times. Changing environments robbed
him of a chance t o cement his rol e
among the different constituencies t o
whi ch he briefly belonged. Perhaps the
most disturbing of these relocations
was the fi rst during his formati ve years.
As a result, Ndi vhuho seems t o have
grown t o hate the customary rituals as
practiced by his father's family, whi ch he
now, since he has become a born-again
Christian, regards as pagan. This shift
f rom an African way of life t o
Christianity presents many points f or
discussion. Of concern in this article
are issues around heredi ty and identity
formati on.
I . This means uncle. In Afri can societies t here is a
di sti ncti on between the mother' s and t he father's
brot hers. The t er m uncle woul d refer t o t he
mother' s brother, who seems mor e i mpor t ant that
the father's brother.
Tal ent and Heredi t y
In most African traditions or customs
there are t wo main determining factors,
which come t o bear in naming a child.
First, the family may give a child a name
that reminds them and the communi ty
of what was occurri ng during the time
it was born. This could capture national
events, state of the village, family
successes or feuds. Wi t h Ndi vhuho, his
name f rom the father's family was
Ntshavheni (be scared of me). The
meaning or the origin of the name,
ot her than its literal translation, was
never established or explained t o
Ndi vhuho because the mother resented
it f rom the beginning. Instead, she gave
him an alternative name which means
thanksgiving. Summarily, Ndi vhuho has
never taken t o the name (Ntshavheni)
because the mother had a problem wi t h
it. The meaning and the essence of the
name and all its hereditary innuendos
may never be established. Probably, this
is not a big issue for Ndi vhuho now
because of his age, and his Christian
upbringing has, by design, cut his ties
wi t h his African sensibility. Therefore
there is likelihood that Ndi vhuho
has lost a possible reference t o
his hereditary talent by not
carrying his family name. The
ability t o refer t o
achievements made by one's
close relatives boosts one's
confidence. /
Second, a child could inherit a name
f rom one of the living or the living dead
members of the family. In this case, it is
believed that the name, as much as it is
normally in honour of the f ormer
bearer, also casts the character and
behaviour of the new bearer i nto the
moul d of the former. Therefore, if the
f ormer bearer was artistically talented,
then it will be expected of the current
bearer of the name t o either match or
go beyond the talent limits of the
former. Thus, it is common t o hear
questions such as "whose child is he or
she t o have achieved this or that?"
The implication here is that, the
ability t o achieve might be
Communi t y At t i t udes
Given the small number of
African patrons who visit art
galleries or collect music, it
seems that only the few who
have been exposed t o certain
environments such as institutions
of higher learning have an
appreciation. Appreciation goes
wi t h exposure.The following t wo
incidents suggest that, the music that
has so far been the subject of study in
institutions of higher learning is not
widely understood among African
1. Af t er practicing Fernando Sor's
Op.35, No. 22 in b mi nor for many
nights in the kitchen of a township
four roomed house, my father's
voice pieced through the still of the
night, asking when I was going t o
start playing music now that I have
spent three years playing exercises.
2. A friend of mine decided t o render a
jazz standard on a piano in the Leo
Marquard dining hall of the
University of Cape Town. Students
were having lunch. Most them went
about thei r meal as if nothing was
happening, except for a few who
went up t o him and asked if he
could "play something" f or them.
Clearly, the type of music that my
friend and I played in the t wo
circumstances failed t o make an
impression. The aesthetic values
associated wi t h the music that my
friend and I studied were misplaced,
if our idea of beautiful music is
contrary t o that of the communities
we come f rom.
Music Qualification
Studying towards a music qualification is
not common among African
communities. Most students, who make
it t o music departments, do so wi t h
little or no support from thei r parents.
Also, the communities from where
these students come find it difficult t o
understand why anybody woul d study in
the field where there are no obvious
career opportuni ti es. Besides, African
families still expect their children t o
choose medicine, law or other such
traditional professions that lead t o
secure jobs and therefore economic
stability rather than chose music.
Arti sts, especially musicians in South
Africa, have still t o earn respect. As a
result communities do not readily
support musicians or careers in music.
From Known t o Unknown
InVenda there are five main types of
popular music; namely
Tshingondo - a music genre that is
guitar-based whi ch closely resembles
the music of Zi mbabwe;
Reggae - as made popular by Col bert
Mukwevho of Harley and the Rasta
Family fame;
Indigenous music which is inextricably
i ntertwi ned wi t h dance;
Gospel music; and
Choral music.
Classical music and jazz do not feature
much in the musical life ofVhavenda. It
woul d seem that different sets of
aesthetic values apply t o music in
For someone who grew up in this
envi ronment it takes effort t o begin t o
appreciate new sounds. When
Ndi vhuho walked i nto the Music
Depart ment in 2005, he heard, for the
first ti me, the genre of music called jazz.
Further he had no idea of Classical
music, let alone the meaning of formal l y
studying these genres. A few years
later, Ndi vhuho recognised that there is
noVendan jazz guitarist. Ndi vhuho now
believes that jazz guitar playing could
become his niche area. He claims that
he has been exposed t o all the genres
of music listed above, including the
music of his church, but finds jazz more
Educating Ndivhuho
Wyat t MacGaffey (1982) describes
education as "the passing of acquired
competence from one generation t o
another," and that this is how society
reproduces itself. Education involves
cultural issue, which is why i t is
i mportant for educators t o know and
understand the background of thei r
students. What should emerge out of
the educational process is a better
functional human being who meets
expectations and standards, and has a
chance of succeeding in life. This, f or
me, has been the starting poi nt in
designing a learning programme. I refer
t o my experience when I was a music
student. The broad understanding of
the objective of education and the
ability t o draw positively f rom personal
experience works effectively all the
ti me. Not much has changed since the
ti me when I myself, as a young student,
began formal music education in my
mid-twenties wi t h nothing but a passion
for music. Ndi vhuho, and most African
students, usually seem not t o care
whether they wi l l find jobs after
finishing thei r studies. At some level it
is, f or them, not about a job, but a
career. It is about discovering and
getting t o know something they
genuinely love - music making. This
drive yields the energy that makes the
process of educating some of these late
starters wort hwhi l e.
Appreci ati on
Appreciation of students' conditions and
problems helps in gaining t rust f rom the
students. Lecturers should be aware
that students as ol d as Ndi vhuho come
t o class, having wi t hst ood enormous
pressures f rom different angles of life.
At age 24 they are supposed t o be
starting their professional lives and
establishing relationships that may lead
t o marriage. It is common t o find that
some of these students already have
children of thei r own. All these are,
relatively speaking, aspects which need
proper handling. The ability t o create
links even at a spiritual level goes a long
way in preparing students f or challenges
that come wi t h studying music.
Going an extra mile
Af t er appreciating the student's
problems, it is i mportant t o offer
support where possible. Of t en, such a
gesture leads t o the lecturer assuming a
father or a mother figure, a mentor and
a friend who is always there f or his or
her students. Overt i me the lecturer
develops a rapport wi t h the students t o
an extent that he or she is able t o see
through them. Once this level is
achieved, the students reciprocate by
being open wi t h the lecturer. In this
environment respect f rom both sides is
strengthened beyond the normal
student-teacher relation.
Admi t t i ng l i mi tati ons and fl aunti ng
At university there are some students
who are smarter than others and may
even be smarter than the lecturer. It is
i mportant t o encourage such students
t o express themselves, even if they may
challenge the lecturer. In cases where
the lecturer does not have an
immediate answer t o a challenge or a
question, it is advisable t o accede t o a
poi nt rather than t o maintain a position
that may not be correct.
Learners need an assurance that
thei r l ecturer is at the cutting edge of
what they are studying. This is why, in
music, students enrol wi t h certain
institutions because they want t o study
under a certain lecturer. For t hem,
finding thei r iconic lecturer being
human and approachable unlocks most
faculties for effective learning.
Typical BMus. Pr ogr amme
Technical Abi l i ty
Hol di ng t he Gui t ar and
st r ummi ng,
i ntensi ve exercises.
Learni ng heads.
Learni ng the Blues si de-by-
side wi t h Mbhaqanga.
Learni ng jazz Standards.
Learni ng Bebop Heads.
Learni ng t o i nt er pr et and play
arranged music.
Technical Skill
Di at oni c Seventh chor d in
five posi t i ons.
Left hand finger
i ndependence.
Local mel odi es as a reference.
Coor di nat i on
Scales, arpeggios and chords.
Wor ki ng f r om lead sheets.
Major, Mi nor di at oni c
Modes of a maj or scale.
I mprovi sat i on techni ques.
Aur al per cept i on.
Theoreti cal
Underst andi ng
Music l i teracy: the study of
the el ements of music.
Underst andi ng Mel odi c and
Har moni c Concept s.
Knowl edge of pr i mar y
Mast ery of Di at oni c
Mast ery of Ter t i ar y Harmony.
Appreci at i on of At onal Music.
Mastery of Modal Harmony.
Free yoursel f f r om harmony.
Hi stori cal and Stylistic
Wh a t each of t he five
cont i nent s brings t o music?
Over vi ew of Hi st or y of
Early Jazz (1900) and
Ragti me-pi ani sts.
Di xi el and bands.
Chi cago-era.
Swi ng (1935).
I nt r oduct i on t o
Bebop (1940).
The " Co o r - e r a (1945).
Ar r angement s.
Har d Bob (1950).
Modal .
Avant -garde ( i 960) .
Free and Fusion (1966).
Ar e you able t o command a
place at thi s level?
Establish practi ce r out i ne.
Play chords in a band.
Self-study met hods
Play mel odi es and chords in
the band.
Har moni c taste.
Wr i t e l i ttl e composi t i ons.
Play t hem in t he band.
Establish l i feti me fri endshi p
wi t h cert ai n fel l ow band
Di sregard harmony wi t hout
boundari es.
Year Level
Cert i f i cat e
B Mus I
B Mus 2
B Mus 3
B Mus 4
Pr ogr amme Dynamics
Above is a rough representation of a
jazz programme. Columns A and B
represent the technical wor k Ndi vhuho
has been learning. These skills are
essentially aimed at improving his
psychomotor skills, wi t h great emphasis
on the mot or skills. Col umn C and D
are knowledge based. The application of
knowledge contained in these t wo
columns is slightly different. Col umn Cs
type of knowledge impacts directly on
the practical aspect of learning, while
column D builds understanding, and
leans towards column E. Col umn E is
i mportant because it defines the
students; whether he or she is
adequately, musically educated.
Progress in column A is challenging
f or Ndi vhuho or any ot her student
wi t h similar (lack of) background. As
music is a practical subject, students are
under pressure t o cover all the study
materials presented, almost at once. As
much as this ideal is desirable, it is not
always possible. An experienced
educator knows that a successful
treatment of col umn B sets a student
up f or an eventual realisation of
column A.
Ndi vhuho' s success
This article attempts t o present factors
that affect Ndivhuho's musical
educational development. The educator
can now emphasise wi t h Ndivhuho's
social problems, and understand the
background of the communi ty he comes
f rom and the challenges he will face
when he returns t o play his rol e. It is
imperative t o present a rough sketch of
the programme that
Ndi vhuho goes through in order t o
appreciate the magnitude of the gap
that needs t o be closed if Ndi vhuho is
t o be successful.
Ndivhuho's success should been
seen in three ways:
( I ) . He has found a way of establishing
his own identity.
(2). His progression has been steady. He
passes all the modules and works
hard at his practicals t o compensate
for his lack of experience.
(3). His mind is at the right place. He has
channelled all his energies i nto his
studies. He has a mild personality
which makes him likable.
Apart f rom his academic wor k he now
plays guitar in his church band, and on
campus he is a key member of a student
reggae group. He is going t o graduate
wi t h a B.Mus. degree. He should be
encouraged t o consider a teacher's
qualification, which will guarantee his
usefulness t o his community.
Strategies behind
In dealing wi t h African students, it does
not help t o dwell on thei r lack of
preparation. Perhaps what is i mportant
is t o, quickly and efficiently, find a way of
reaching them emotionally and
intellectually. One sure way of achieving
this is by acquiring a thorough
understanding of the learning processes
they, as Africans, have been subjected t o
since bi rth and expl oi t them positively.
Some of the modes of learning common
in African communities are (Mapaya,
Seclusion: Occurs where
learners/initiates are removed from
their familiar environment and put in
a situation where they are faced
with music all the time, and can only
connect with their communities at
controlled intervals.This method is
common in the initiation process of
. This method could be
more effective if, for argument's
sake, a student from Venda were to
be sent to study in an institution far
away. However, local students could
be encouraged to get into
accommodation on campus.They
should try to remove themselves
from their home environments.
Immersion: Here the initiates are
exposed to extended periods of
drumming and dancing. Eventually,
2. Mangaka (ngaka in singular) a Sesotho word for
what are commonly known as traditional healers.
the rhythms of the drums, and the
songs sung are absorbed by the
subconscious mind.The initiates hear
these sounds even in their sleep.
Music students who may not have
the privilege of having a collection of
jazz music are strongly encouraged,
almost compelled, to buy one jazz
album and listen to the music
Drilling: Music students who did not
grow up learning music do not
understand the dynamics of
practicing.There are those elements
that need small doses of daily
practice, and there those that need
lengthy periods of practice until the
threshold is passed. Students should
be sensitised to these dynamics and
helped in realising them.
Coercion: African students,
particularly those with rural
backgrounds, would understand
easily if they were to be coerced
into doing certain things related to
their studies. Positive coercion has
been part of their upbringing where
a child has to wake up at a certain
time to fulfil certain tasks without
question. Wi th Ndivhuho and others,
I threw them into the deep end by
demanding of them mastery of the
diatonic seventh chords system in
five different positions in one month
with no negotiations; and it worked.
That may be one reason why
Ndivhuho is a success.
MacGaffey.W. (1982). Education, Religion, and
Social Structure in Zaire. Anthropology and
Education Quarterly,Vol. 13, No. 3,, 13, pp.
Mapaya, M. (2004). Aspects of Contemporary
Northern Sotho Culture Through Music: Its
Perpetuation within and beyond the region of
Ga-Mmalebogo, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Master's dissertation Johannesburg: Wi ts
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