Dancing and witch doctors, oh my
Trip Start Aug 30, 2006
25Trip End Nov 10, 2006
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I needed background music for the video, so the idea was to record the singing and drums. Word got out in the village that we were coming, and combined with serious case of broken telephone, we ended up having the whole village come for the show. We had drums, singers and dancers and an audience.
Eddie and I walked for forty minutes to the side of a huge 'hill', the village was already there - meeting under a gorgeous tree. This is a dance that conjours up the spirits of the ancestors. It often ends with someone being possessed. They dance, they call, they pound on the drum, they stomp to the music, they blow whistles and shake seeds and hit the earth. The sun had just begun to lower and the light was catching the edges of their bodies, casting light on leaves, and making the hill behind them glow
It seems that when the women here laugh, when they ulate with joy, and when they smile, they seem to own the world. They're connected to the earth. They're solid, confident and seem to deserve to rejoice. Not that other people don't deserve to, but that these people do deserve to. Even here at the dance, time is not wasted. Some women are knitting, others are braiding hair. All are enjoying themselves. The dancing goes on for some time, until we tell them that we have enough. One dancer, out of breath but not even slightly weary says they've 'just begun', and
everyone laughs. That is a sign that he's one who will be possessed by a spirit.
They say. He would probably dance until morning. Sometimes they'll dance until they collapse and then they sleep for a whole day. Sometimes voices come out of them, instructions from spirits. I heard many such stories yesterday on my walk home.
We stopped at a local house to have some honey-sausage tree alcoholic brew. An alcohol so strong, so alcoholic that one full cup is supposed to send your head spinning. And old men sit around and drink it all day long. Sipping it, mind you.
So I sat on a stool, a crowd of people around me
It tasted sweet from the honey, and yeast-like from the fruit, but it went down like water. It's easy to see how this stuff can be dangerous. Men will travel very far for a good cup of it. Often to drown their sorrows away or to relax after a day of tough manual labor. Doesn't sound too much different then the canadian bar. During the rainy season everyone is far too busy to drink, but when its dry like this there isn't much to do. So they make babies, and get drunk.
Most likely not in that order.
Anyway there were all of these fascinating first hand account stories of witch doctors and spirits and dances etc. Things that have happened as recently as this year.
Reaching the house, Angela (Eddie's wife) had even more to add to the conversation.
I think we all kind of spooked ourselves for a minute. Someone knocked at the gate, but didn't answer to our greetings. Then the front door swung open, but we couldn't see or hear anyone. Angela's brother appeared in the door, and there was a collective sigh.
Eddie has promised to introduce me to a good credible witch doctor the next time I'm in town. I'm excited. I'd love to just talk to one. That would be crazy.
Apparently thats what the Kemba people are known for. They are the fourth largest tribe in Kenya, and they're known to be peaceful, but also experts with the bow and arrow. And superstitious. No one messes with a Kemba because if they don't kill you with an arrow, they'll cast an oath on you and you die anyways. It's really true, as jovial and pudgy as the Kemba people look, the Kenyans are afraid of them.