The !Gubi Family: Educational Brochure


The !Gubi Family: San ‘Bushmen’ from the Kalahari Desert

The sands of the Kalahari a Desert in Southern Africa are home to the San ‘Bushmen’, considered to be one of the oldest living cultures on earth. The !Gubi Family belong to a San community who are traditionally hunter-gatherers, the keepers of an ancient tradition with a knowledge and deep respect for nature and community, which achieves a wonderful expression through their music and dance.

The !Gubi Family produce trance-inducing sounds incorporating unique hand-made instruments, intricate inter-locking rhythms created by stamping, clapping and drumming, delicate vocal techniques and dance-moves that honour the animals they hunt to sustain themselves and with whom they share their desert home. In the evenings at home the San will gather round the fire to dance, play music, heal, and tell stories. Story telling is an ancient skill – explanations of creation, of birth and death and the cycle of the seasons have all been passed from one generation to the next, through storytelling and song as well as through the dance. Their dances involve the imitation of a particular animal – based on the belief that one must become the animal in order to hunt it.

The !Gubi Family offer a unique opportunity to experience the wealth of an ancient culture first hand and to enrich pupils’ sense of global cultural diversity, giving them an appreciation and understanding of a way of life and spirituality that is very different to their own. The !Gubi Family’s approach is wholly participatory and they seek to educate people about their way of life, respect for the environment, their traditions and a view of community through participation in their stories, music and dance. Children are encouraged to find their own creative expression using the techniques and styles as the basis for their own improvisation. Through making music together the group also builds important skills of listening, concentration, teamwork and discipline.

The ideal format is for the group to spend a full or half day in each school, with a whole-school performance first thing followed by a number of one hour, hands-on workshops.

Links with the Primary School Curriculum

Our performance and workshops complement many areas of the Foundation Stage and National Curricula.

The children will be:

Foundation stage

  • Learning about and respecting the cultures of other people
  • Maintaining attention and concentrating
  • Being confident to try new activities
  • Working as part of  group, taking turns, working together harmoniously
  • Sustaining attentive listening, listening with enjoyment
  • Experimenting with how musical instruments can be played to produce different sounds
  • Recognising / exploring how sounds can be changed
  • Recognising repeated sounds and sound patterns
  • Responding to sound with body movements
  • Expressing thoughts and feelings through music and movement
  • Experiencing live performance

KS1 Music

  • Using their voices expressively
  • Playing tuned and untuned instruments
  • Rehearsing and performing with others
  • Creating musical patterns
  • Exploring and expressing ideas and feelings using movement and dance
  • Listening with concentration  and internalising / recalling sounds
  • Exploring how sounds can be made in different ways
  • Understanding how music is used for particular purposes
  • Exploring how  sounds can be organised and used expressively within simple structures

KS2 Music

  • playing untuned instruments with control and rhythmic accuracy
  • improvising, developing rhythmic  material when performing
  • listening with attention to detail
  • internalising / recalling sounds with increasing aural memory
  • understanding how pitch, duration, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture and silence can be organised and used to communicate different moods and effects
  • how time and place can influence the way music is created, performed and heard


  • listening to other people
  • playing and working cooperatively
  • identifying and respecting the differences and similarities between people


  • thinking about the lives of people living in other places and times, and people with different values and customs

KS2 Geography

  • learning about people, places and environments, and starting to make links between different places in the world

Links with the Curriculum For Excellence

Experiences and Outcomes for the Expressive Arts

  • enabling children to experience the inspiration and power of the arts, recognising and nurturing children’s creative and aesthetic talents.
  • allowing children to develop skills and techniques that are relevant to specific art forms.
  • providing children with opportunities to deepen their understanding of culture in the wider world.
  • enhancing and enriching the children’s lives through partnerships with professional arts companies, creative adults and cultural organisations.

Participation in performances and presentations

  • Children experience the energy and excitement of presenting/performing for audiences and being part of an audience for other people’s presentations/performances.


  • The children have the opportunity and freedom to choose and explore ways that in which they can move rhythmically, expressively and playfully.
  • The children enjoy creating short dance sequences, using travel, turn, jump, gesture and pause.
  • The children create and take part in dance from another culture.
  • The children have opportunities to enjoy taking part in dance experiences.
  • The children become aware of different features of dance and can practise and perform steps, formations and a short dance.
  • The children take part in dance from another culture, demonstrating their awareness of the dance features.


  • The children enjoy singing and playing along to music of different styles and cultures.
  • The children sing and play music from other styles and cultures, gaining confidence and skill while learning about musical notation and performance directions.
  • The children sing and/or play music from another culture and perform music confidently using performance directions and playing by ear.
  • The children have the freedom to use their voices and musical instruments to discover and enjoy playing with sound, rhythm, pitch and dynamics.


Religious and Moral Education

  • Helping the children recognise and understand religious diversity and the importance of religion in society.


PERFORMANCE 30-60 mins

The performance begins with an introduction by the narrator of the group to the children, where in Africa they come from and what kind of living conditions and environment they live in.

Next, the musicians and dancers are introduced one by one to the children, who will be encouraged to welcome them to their school . The narrator will explain to the children that The !Gubi Family speak in the !Nqxua language, known as a ‘click language’, which uses different sounds that we do not use in English. The different click sounds are taught to the children who repeat them back in a call and response fashion. Once the children have learned the click sounds, they can then use them to welcome the group members by name to their school.

The performance then moves on to the songs and dances, using a variety of traditional songs hand-made instruments.

During each song, some members of the group will be clapping a rhythm while singing. Each clapping rhythm will be taught to the children who, to avoid making too much noise, will be encouraged to tap the rhythm on their knees while the song is played. The rare and unusual instruments that are used by the San to accompany their songs are :

The !Xwasi (San four stringed harp), which is made from a recycled oil can.

The ‘!Guma’  large mouthbow, beaten with a stick while moved around in the players mouth.

The !Guma smaller bow, beaten with a stick while being pressed against a biscuit tin which acts as a resonance chamber.

The meaning of each song is explained as part of the performance. The children will be given an incredible insight into their fascinating history, their daily life in Namibia, their music and its meaning, the issues they face, their intimate knowledge and an understanding of the bush and ways in their natural environment.

For the last song, the younger members of the group will come forward and perform a dance. The dancers wear body percussion, made of the cocoons of moths that have been dried and their distinctive sound comes from the rattling of the dried eggs of the insect inside the cocoon.

The narrator will explain how the dance is often performed around the fire, with some members of the community sitting and singing while others will dance. The movement of the dancers is shown to the children – with the stamping of feet to also shake the body percussion wrapped around the dancers legs. As some of the group sit in a circle around an imaginary fire, the dancers will then begin to dance around the fire, each dancer following in the footsteps of another. The children will be told that the repetition of the dance movements, the singing and the clapping enable the lead dancer to enter into trance – a dream like state while awake – which enables him to see, in the spiritual realm, who in the community is in need of healing. The leader will then go the person (one of the sitting group members for demonstration purposes), lay his hands on them and heal them.

Questions and answers will be encouraged at the end of the presentation.

The Workshops – 45-60 Minutes, for class sized groups.

The workshops will teach the children to dance around the fire in the way the San traditionally dance back in their desert home.

Firstly, the children will be shown how some members of the community will sit around the fire, clapping and singing songs. The group members and the children will all sit down in a circle and a one of the clapping rhythms learned briefly during the performance will be reprised. Then the children will be taught, using a call and response interplay, a simple chant which is sung by the San to accompany the clapping. After the chant has been learned, the children will try to sing the chant and clap at the same time. As this requires quite a lot of practice and concentration, many of the children (particularly the younger ones) will find this difficult, so after having given it a try, the class will be divided into 2 groups – one will clap the rhythm and the other will sing the chant, before swapping over.

Once the singing and clapping has been learned it will be time to learn the dance, which is performed in a circular motion around the imaginary fire. The leader of the dance will lead the circular procession, stomping his feet in time to the rhythm that is being clapped by the singers. The rest of the dancers follow in the footsteps of the person in front of them and stomping along to the same rhythm and a circular procession is formed.

Before the children can perform the circular dance it is necessary to learn the movements and the rhythm of the dance. These are taught to them in a number of component parts which are then put together to make up the complete movement, which is then danced in repetition until memorised.

Once the children have mastered the art of dancing in a circle, the time has come for the final performance. The class is divided into three groups, with the best singers assigned to the singing and the best dancers assigned to the dance and everyone else keeping the rhythm going with the clapping. One of the !Gubi Family’s dancers will then lead the circular dance around the camp fire and the circular dance performed for a while before the leader dancer performs an imaginary healing on one of the other members of the family sitting around the fire.

Once the healing has been performed, the workshop is over and the children are encouraged to say a big final thank-you to the group before the session ends.