Gabra – Small Dry

16-Sep-21
John Wood
GABRA — Small Dry

Here’s a program from our archives.

ambience: Gabra songs
On a rocky desert straddling the border of Kenya and Ethiopia, a group of nomadic herders, known as the Gabra are in the midst of what they call the “Small Dry,” a short, rainless season which forces the Gabra men to leave their families and take their cattle in search of sustenance. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

John Wood is a professor of anthropology at Emory University. He tells us that this separation of the family is as inevitable for the Gabra as are the changing seasons. And the annual weather cycle of rain and drought gives rise to a corresponding social cycle of togetherness and solitude.

“During these songs that are being sung in groups, they are celebrating their solidarity in their community, but many of the images of these songs are the images of loneliness and division. And for nomads who have to be so often separated and fragmented as a community, living in a harsh environment where they otherwise also have to maintain close attachments to people because life is so capricious and so hazardous here. That they need to be able to rely on other people. So you have this tremendous need for attachment and social connections with other people. And you also have this tremendous requirement of the conditions of the environment to fragment. People cannot congregate for very long except during the rainy seasons. I was struck time and again by how this is something that all human beings have to face. We all are born attached to a family and we all ultimately have to leave that family to sort of fend and make a life for ourselves. ”

Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Gabra - Small Dry

Songs sung by these nomadic herders reflect a joy shared in togetherness amidst a harsh environment that demands separation.
Air Date:09/16/2021
Scientist:John Wood
Transcript:

16-Sep-21 John Wood GABRA -- Small Dry Here's a program from our archives. ambience: Gabra songs On a rocky desert straddling the border of Kenya and Ethiopia, a group of nomadic herders, known as the Gabra are in the midst of what they call the "Small Dry," a short, rainless season which forces the Gabra men to leave their families and take their cattle in search of sustenance. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. John Wood is a professor of anthropology at Emory University. He tells us that this separation of the family is as inevitable for the Gabra as are the changing seasons. And the annual weather cycle of rain and drought gives rise to a corresponding social cycle of togetherness and solitude. "During these songs that are being sung in groups, they are celebrating their solidarity in their community, but many of the images of these songs are the images of loneliness and division. And for nomads who have to be so often separated and fragmented as a community, living in a harsh environment where they otherwise also have to maintain close attachments to people because life is so capricious and so hazardous here. That they need to be able to rely on other people. So you have this tremendous need for attachment and social connections with other people. And you also have this tremendous requirement of the conditions of the environment to fragment. People cannot congregate for very long except during the rainy seasons. I was struck time and again by how this is something that all human beings have to face. We all are born attached to a family and we all ultimately have to leave that family to sort of fend and make a life for ourselves. " Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.