The !Gubi Family: San ‘Bushmen’ from the Kalahari Desert
The !Gubi family are an enchanting group of traditional musicians and dancers ranging in age from 18-80 from the San people of The Kalahari Desert in Namibia, keepers of the ancient musical traditions of their culture and among the last thousand speakers of their language. Their home is Corridor 18, in the Sands of the Kalahari Desert, Namibia, one of the least developed and most isolated areas of the country, where there is a single tap for the whole community, no electicity, very limited access to health and educational facilities, a very basic diet and no source of financial income.
The San are one of the originators of trance dance and their music is specifically designed to evoke an altered state of consciousness through the rhythms and beats, enabling the musician to enter into trance, commune with their ancestors and with the spirits of the animals with whom they share their desert home and perform healing on both individuals and the tribe.
Their first UK tour saw the !Gubi Family visit of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including appearances at The Edinburgh Mela Festival, The Orkney International Science Festival and in village halls and schools across the region.
!GUBI was born in Botswana in 1929 and is a member of the /Noa (Ncoa) tribe. !Gubi is a highly respected traditional healer who begun his intitiation into the healing arts as a young man of twenty. He begun by acquiring knowledge of the plants and then learnt how to go into trance and heal people through trance dancing and raising his n/um energy. As a young man he was able to wander between the two countries freely and it was only after Namibian Independence that border control started to become an issue. Three of his sons still live in Botswana and it is not as easy for him to visit his family as it used to be.
ANNA MUNGABAPUTE , the daughter of !Gubi and one of eight children. She suffered from polio as a child and is now paralysed from her waist downwards. However not letting her disability get the better of her she has become an accomplished healer and traditional musician. Anna has a hauntingly beautiful voice and is one of the best chanters in the region. She is a powerful traditional doctor and heals with her chanting, going in and out of trance during their traditional ceremonies and is extremely knowledgeable about herbs and medicines of the bush.
MARIA BESSA is 29 years old, daughter of !Gubi, sister to Anna and a mother of 5. She is an extremely talented singer and is quite a new addition to the family group. For her, music is very special and performance is the only way that she is able to support her family. She is also an expert craftswoman and spends her spare time making exquisite pieces of jewellery from ostrich eggs and beads.
JOHANNES TIETIE is the youngest of !Gubi’s children in the group at 26 years of age. At home, he is an accomplished hunter – often the one to bring home the Steenbok or Gemsbok for dinner. As a musician, Johannes is an outstanding all-rounder, as a dancer and multi-instrumentalist. He plays the Mouthbow and the Gau Gau and is the one following in his father’s footsteps with a wish to learn more about passing on the musical knowledge from !Gubi.
JOHN and MAGNUS BARSE are Anna’s sons. They are both extremely talented dancers and delight audiences with their exuberant dances impersonating Lions, Ostriches, and of course, the Hot San Boys who have just arrived in town ! They represent the passing on of traditional musical knowledge down from their grandfather and on to future generations. This is vitally important in ensuring that the traditional music, dance and culture of the San people will survive.