GABRA- Night Music

Picture yourself in an open desert, huddled near a fire and sheltered by an immense, starry sky. The landscape feels vast and empty– until, from far away, you hear the pounding of a drum and a chorus of voices. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

In the east African desert, the nomadic Gabra people migrate in small groups in search of water and grazing grounds for their camels. At times, the distance between groups is great, but the Gabra women fill the space with their songs, one of which we’re listening to right now.

“The Gabra landscape is a rolling plain, sometimes skillet flat and otherwise sort of undulant like an easy sea.”

John Wood is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Emory University.

“Many times Gabra sing at night and if you’re far away, especially if you’re downwind you hear them, the women put cow skins on the ground and these cow skins are rather stiff. They put these out on the ground and they gather in a tight circle, like a huddle at a football game. And they’re arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder and they’re stomping up and down on these cow skins and that creates a kind of drum. And they’re singing and the cow skin rhythm can be heard from miles away. You might be at one camp where people are not singing but you can hear that some camp that might be miles away is singing. And so in a sense it really does sort of people the space. The empty space is filled with this sound, especially at night it seems.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

GABRA- Night Music

In the east African Desert, women of a nomadic tribe fill the evening air with song.
Air Date:02/15/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

Picture yourself in an open desert, huddled near a fire and sheltered by an immense, starry sky. The landscape feels vast and empty-- until, from far away, you hear the pounding of a drum and a chorus of voices. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

In the east African desert, the nomadic Gabra people migrate in small groups in search of water and grazing grounds for their camels. At times, the distance between groups is great, but the Gabra women fill the space with their songs, one of which we're listening to right now.

"The Gabra landscape is a rolling plain, sometimes skillet flat and otherwise sort of undulant like an easy sea."

John Wood is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Emory University.

"Many times Gabra sing at night and if you're far away, especially if you're downwind you hear them, the women put cow skins on the ground and these cow skins are rather stiff. They put these out on the ground and they gather in a tight circle, like a huddle at a football game. And they're arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder and they're stomping up and down on these cow skins and that creates a kind of drum. And they're singing and the cow skin rhythm can be heard from miles away. You might be at one camp where people are not singing but you can hear that some camp that might be miles away is singing. And so in a sense it really does sort of people the space. The empty space is filled with this sound, especially at night it seems."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.