The first visit we made, Kayum (leader of Langa group in 2015) told me: “Come Ana, we are visiting a Langa community house of culture”. “All right, cool” I though, imagining some ngo-type institution, papers on desks and a computer on the corner. We get out of the car , walk past some thin streets, and enter a apparently empty, white and fresh house. When we get up stairs however, I find a group of about 15 kids, all scrawny boys, between 8 and 12 years old, set and ready to give me a private concert of Langa music 🙂 ! We sat down on the floor, someone probably brought Chai (indian tea with milk omnipresent everywhere) and the boys started playing and singing. Then came their teachers, which played 2 amazing songs and after we chatted and debated many topics for some time.
The community believes all Langa boys are destined to be artists. This is what they do and who they are. They preserve their culture, keeping their community alive. Only 1 kid from this group of 15 goes to school. This is something the fathers (which are also their teachers) are sad about, but do not believe can do much to change. And funnily enough, after talking a little more, we realize that our visit was on school hours… so we asked this boy: “hey, aren’t you supposed to be at school?”, which he replied “yes, but this week I am not going”… To which everyone laughed due to the “oho, you should follow his example” attitude I seemed to have just before…
Langa community is muslim and these artists are from the sindi caste. According to their traditions girls do not play instruments, or sing. They used to be the “masters of the house” , taking care of everything while men provide for the family. The community still believes this is the way it should be, changing only in the idea that girls can go to school now. And so they do. Girls go to school and learn from their mothers how to raise a family, and boys prepare since a tender age to become Langa musicians.
Text&Photos: Ana Cordeiro