Botswana, Afghanistan, and New Zealand

By Elizabeth Doyle

a zebra in Botswana

Dikakapa – There really are few countries in the world more musical than Botswana.  It’s said that every school there features musical education and the learning of old songs as a critical component in its children’s curriculum. Traditionally, music there relies solely on voice and clapping.  Of course, instruments have gradually been added to the folk music. But voice and complex clapping is still the staple.  It’s natural that rap became very popular there very quickly, because that’s a natural extension of a lyrics-first musical ascetic.  South Africa and Europe have both brought musical ideas that Botswana has integrated into its music.  But Botswana has, in turn, founded musical styles like Kwaito Kwasa that have gone out and re-influenced the influencers. I like the rap, and the rock, and the Kwaito Kwasa that comes out of Botswana, but my favorite is still the folk music, like Dikakapa’s, addressing family issues, love, and sometimes just the rain: Click here.

handwoven Afghan rugs

Ahmad Wali –  Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, he was a very popular singer in his country from a very young age. He sang beautiful love songs and poems, and in the days when he was performing internationally, like at the famous Shiraz Arts Festival in Iran, all must have seemed to be going so well.  And then 1978 came.  He was placed under house arrest for having performed for the Afghan King. (I imagine it would have been hard to say no!) And it wasn’t long before he was simply forced to flee, using a fake passport.  In retrospect, one could say he actually made it out just in time!  That military coup turned out to be just the first of a very long line of tragic events in Afghanistan.  Ahmad Wali lived in Germany after his exile, and gave concerts to raise money for other Afghan refugees. His soothing voice and lovely music serves as a reminder of an older, happier Afghanistan.  This is apparently typical of what you would have heard on the radio back then.  Here he is at that concert in Iran – so long ago!  Click here.

Maori wood carving


Maisey Rika — New Zealand is one of those countries, I’m embarrassed to say, if I don’t think about it, I sort of think of as having been empty before the Europeans arrived. I have the feeling I’m not the only one. But of course, that’s not the case at all. The Maori have lived there for at least 500 years longer than the Europeans, and they still do.  Their legends tell of how they all arrived on boats from a mythical Polynesian island called Hawaiki.  (Of course, how do we know for sure that it’s mythical?  Maybe they really did.)  Centuries of island isolation gave the Maori a distinctive warrior culture, and traditions that are absolutely unique to them.  Historically, they were known to be pretty fierce (and even fearsome) hunters and warriors, but performance art and music has always been an important part of their community, too. In modern times, they’ve had an astounding number of international musical sensations from the famous operatic soprano Marie Te Hapuku to the 1950s and 60s crooner, Prince Tui Teka.   It’s really unprecedented for such a small group of people to have had so much musical stardom.  And if you happen to be my age, you’re going to appreciate this next one most of all:  You know Flight of the Conchords? In real life, Jemaine is half Maori.  For real!  But this is my favorite singer of Maori descent.  She isn’t very famous yet, but I don’t know why. Here she is singing in both Maori and English: Click here.

Top photo:  © John Loader /

Second photo: © Catherine Ortega /

Third photo: © Nikolai & Olga Vakhroushev  /

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