The relevance of African American singing games to Xhosa children in South Africa : a qualitative study
Burns, Carolyn Diane
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In post-apartheid South Africa there has been a strong emphasis on teaching traditional music in the schools. Previously the music was greatly influenced by Western European and English systems. New standards were developed in the Arts and Culture Curriculum 2005. The purpose of this study was to explore how children in South Africa could be taught African American singing games, their perception and preferences, and how these songs would meet the new standards. A qualitative study was conducted with 69 Xhosa children in grades five and six at Good Shepherd Primary School in Grahamstown, South Africa. The learners were introduced to three African American singing games of which they had no prior knowledge. The songs were taught in the South African traditional manner; i.e., singing and moving simultaneously. Interviews were subsequently conducted with 47 learners and 5 families. The primary school teachers also provided information informally. The learners related their knowledge of African American singing games compared to their traditional Xhosa singing games and other music. They recognized a relationship between African American slavery and the apartheid era. A learner's preference of song was directly related to his previous experience with a Xhosa children's song or traditional music used for rites and rituals. Interviews with the teachers and parents were very positive indicators that the African American singing games should be included in the curriculum. Parents remembered and sang Freedom Songs and they indicated the need for their children to learn about other African cultures. The outcome of this study may provide South African teachers with materials to introduce African American folk music as an applicable source of multicultural music with African origins. The study suggests successful ways in which we teach multicultural music.