Braais and Beats
If the word “braai” isn’t familiar to you now, it will be within two days of spending time in South Africa. A “braai” is basically an American style barbecue, and quite similar to the chillin’ and grillin’ that we may do at home. But, it’s not just about whatever you are cooking over the flames. These braais give everyone a time to take deep breaths and relax, to talk and to listen, and of course, to sing and dance. No braai is complete without good iPod speakers, or someone volunteering their guitar skills for the evening. Because as it has been said before, music is the universal language.
Music is not only a pastime, but also a cultural reflection and a way of life for much of Africa. You can’t go far in downtown Cape Town without seeing a school dance troupe perform, or a band set up with traditional African drums, marimbas, or xylophones. And it’s not just the performers that sing and dance to the music that you quickly learn to love. It’s the passerbys that stop and show off a new dance step, that sing along with the parts they know, or at least clap with the beat that they’ve been hearing.
I suppose it was overwhelming at first, the openness of the dancing and the lack of inhibitions on singing: whether you are good at it or not. But in the end, it’s not about being good at the dance upon first encounter: it’s about learning the song.