The Migodo (singular Ng´godo)of the Chopi people of southern Mozambique are among the most exciting spectacles to be witnessed in Africa. They are annually staged entertainments made up of dances, songs and music played on orchestras of massed xylophones played by up to 48 musicians.

As early as 1562, the Jesuite missionary André Fernandes described the orchestras as follows: “These people are much given to the pleasures of singing and playing. Their instruments are many gourds bound together with chords, and a piece of wood bent like a bow, some large and some small, and to the openings to which they fasten trumpets with the wax of wild honey to improve the sounds, and they have their treble and bass instruments, etc.” (1)

In the 1940s, when the musicologist Hugh Tracey made the recordings posted here, the orchestras were to be found in every large village. Katini weNyambombe was the leader and composer at the court of the Paramount Chief Wani Zavala, and Gomukomo weSimbi held the same office at the court of Filippe we Madumane Banguza whose district, called Mangene, lies along the north-western bounday of Zavala.

Each Ng’godo has certain set features, most prominently the orchestral introductions and finale, the Mdano or Call to the Dancers, and the Mzeno, the principal Song. The best of them have a set theme.

In Katini’s Ng’godo for 1940, the theme is Portuguese colonial rule, interspersed with very local satire. It is made up of the following sections, the whole performance lasting 50 minutes.

NG’GODO
composed in 1940 by Katini weNyambombe, orchestral leader and composer at the village of Wani Zavala, Zavala District, Mozambique.

1. Musito wokata
2. Musito wembithi
3. Musito woraru
4. Ng’geniso
5. Mdano
6. Joosinya
7. Joosinya cibudo combithi
8. Mzeno
9. Mabandla
10. Citoto Ciriri
11. Musito kugwita

First Orchestral Introduction
Second Orchestral introduction
Third Orchestral introduction
The Entry of the Dancers
The Call of the Dancers
The Dance
The Second Dance
The Song
The Councillors
The Dancers’ Finale
The Orchestral Finale

Movements 1,2, 3 and 11 have no words to them.

4th Movement: Ng’geniso, the Entry of the Dancers:

Hing’gawona
inkupo wamaPortugezi
MaPortugezi vahanya
kumadanda ni tikuku
Cica pondo cingiza!

It isn’t time
to pay taxes to the Portuguese,
The Portuguese who eat
eggs and chicken (2)
Change that English pound! (3)

5th Movement: Mdano, the Call of the Dancers:

Kapitini ng’gunevuka.
Ng’gutane mana nyumbani
kamina nethisete sopa.
Kapitini, ng’gubava mbilo
ing’gonda kushuma
sung’ga Malova
ning’gonaca.
Kapitini ng’gunevuka?

Wani, ng’gene waCivunye!
Atu ngkoma Bakubakwane uning’gete
“Ung’gandapsuala uleka Timbila,
Tsula waka nyumba yako”

Utile minisho yakuwindukela
kudawutisa thiwashi nimbona,
Dibuliani,
Kapitini, unepata ako ninyamai,
wang’gu ucipeka
Ang’gonaca?
Mashewani wang’gu kudawa.

Mweno ng’guwapsha wacileng’ga.
A tu adiho Cipaupau
waMadandani.
Dibuliani mini leng’gako
vadihowa namatiko
vacitela kutanigela.
Adiho Fainde.
Minileng’ga ako micilamba kuwomba?

Kapitini, ng’gunevuka.
Ng’gutane mana nyumbani
kamina nethisete sopa.
Kapitini, ng’gubava mbilo
ing’gonda,kushuma
sung’ga Malova
ning’gonaca.
Kapitini ng’gunevuka?

Kapitini, you make trouble. (4)
You find me in my hut
having taken kachasu.
Kapitini, you have only just
been made a messenger,
yet you send Malova
to come and catch me.
What have I done?

Wani, son of Chivune!
Bakubakwane said to me, (5)
“Don’t waste your time with Timbila,
Go and build your hut”

You woke up early in the morning
to look for your sjambok and watch, (6)
Dibuliani,
Kapitini, you beat both of us,
me and my wife.
What have I done?
So my Mashewani died.

I heard them trying to hush it up.
Chipaupau,
son of Madandani was there (7)
Dibilani spokje about me
in the presence of strangers
and they told me.
Even Fainde was there.
Why don’t you tell me to my face?

Kapitini, you make trouble.
You find me in my hut
having taken kachasu.
Kapitini, you have only just
been made a messenger,
yet you send Malova
to come and catch me.
What have I done?

6th movement: Joosinya, the Dance:

O – o, hing’ganipwa muteto,
Hing’ganipwa muteto waVamadje.

O – o, hing’ganipwa muteto,
Hing’ganipwa muteto waVamadje,
Amano! waMazi wabwakide,
“kupa wati pondo”.

Amano! waMazi wabwakide,
“kupa wati pondo”.
Mihumbu yang’gu tata!
Tiponde natyi mana hayi?

Mihumbu yang’gu tata!
Tiponde natyi mana hayi?

O – o, hing’ganipwa muteto,
Hing’ganipwa muteto waVamadje.

O – o, listen to the orders,
Listen to the orders of the Portuguese.

O – o, listen to the orders,
Listen to the orders of the Portuguese.
Men! The Portuguese say,
“Pay your pound.” (8)

Men! The Portuguese say,
“Pay your pound.”
This wonderful, father!
Where shall I find the pound?

This wonderful, father!
Where shall I find the pound?

O – o, listen to the orders,
Listen to the orders of the Portuguese.

7th movement: Joosinya cibudo combithi, the Second Dance.

Hici O – o,
O – o, ng’go tawona Mzeno.

Hici O – o,
O – o, ng’go tawona Mzeno.

Cima ewo wabemba hiwo wonako,
niMaportugezi wopeka manza nivavasikati
Wacawepata niting’gamu.

Hici O – o,
O – o, ng’go tawona Mzeno.

Sing Ho – o,
Ho – o, Come and see the Mzeno.

Sing Ho – o,
Ho – o, Come and see the Mzeno.

Here is a mystery,
the Portuguese beat us on the hands, (9)
Both us and our wives.

Sing Ho – o,
Ho – o, Come and see the Mzeno.

8th movement: Mzeno, the Song:

Mang’ganakana ng’guvera macitala
mzinda macidanwa wuSibuyeye.
WuSibuyeye ukukela mzinda
acirumbwa ng’gvakoma.
Ung’guyaruma Sibuyeye
tikoni
kaMahashi Bing’gwana?
Macang’gana asala kunyenyedza.

Kuye mang’galwa kawakoma
micikhano Katini wabvuka kunasika kuleka ng’godo.
Mahambane ciwomba nivakoma.
Hing’gawomba awe Fainde ukalako
wisika Timbila.

Cimuke micimona vadikavakoma
losani ngu “mbo dia”.
Losani tatinene Cimuke mbolava
vakoma kukala ndimane navo.

VaBang’guzi vahanyote ukoma waMahlaza
ing’kumaha vacikolo
VaMang’geni vahomidi vacigiya.
Vapota Mindumane wawe.

Ticimwiha ng’gu Mahebane
akopsuala ng’gukona kusela
Vang’gamaha vakutiye vakoma.

Mang’ganakana ng’guvera macitala
mzinda macidanwa wuSibuyeye.
WuSibuyeye ukukela mzinda
acirumbwa ng’gvakoma.
Ung’guyaruma Sibuyeye
tikoni
kaMahashi Bing’gwana?
Macang’gana asala kunyenyedza.

The elders came very early
to the council called by Sibuyeye. (10)
Sibuyeye comes from the council
appointed by the Chiefs.
Why do you send Sibuyeye
into the country
of Mahashi Bingwana?
The Shangaans are detestable.

It was reported to the Chiefs
that Katini refuses to play Timbila
in the dance. (11)
Mahambane told this to the Chiefs.
You ask Faine if this is true,
because he is a player of Timbila.

If you come across Chimuke,
greet him with a “Good day”. (12)
Greet him well,
because he likes to be among the Chiefs.

Banguza became chief instead of Mahlaza
because he’d been to school. (13)
The people of Mangezi are happy
As they now avenge Mindumane.

This is because Mahebane
sat around drinking,
Because chiefs are vain.

The elders came very early
to the council called by Sibuyeye.
Sibuyeye comes from the council
appointed by the Chiefs.
Why do you send Sibuyeye
into the country
of Mahashi Bingwana?
The Shangaans are detestable.

9th movement: Mabandla, the Councillors:

Atu hawomba,
Heng’gati hecileng’ga maleng’go
Fambanyane akavuko
wukoma.

Fambanyane akohode ing’kuwona
yating’guti kluhokiswa matokwe
Kata onatsanela Manjeng’gwe.
Utawa kuyambala
ng’ganju.

Atu hawomba,
Heng’gati hecileng’ga maleng’go
Fambanyane akavuko wukoma.

We are saying
We have reason to say we believe
Fambanyane would have liked
to be Chief. (14)

Fambanyane was brought
bound before the judge,
So now he can’t threaten Manjengwe.
He has lost his chance
of wearing a chief’s uniform.

We are saying
We have reason to say we believe
Fambanyane would have liked to be Chief.

10th movement: Citoto Ciriri, the Dancer’s Finale:

Heng’gisa nzila yaMasawa
yakuta gelwa Katini ati hantini
Jigang’go caCidodo
waKambanini katu.
“Awe Katini, wacikugela mithiho?”
“O —, hai cava!”

We hear a rumour about Masawa
told to Katini at his own home, (15)
That she is courted by Chidodo
of Kambanini, they say. (16)
“You, Katini, what is the damage?”
“Oh—, that I can’t say.”

11th movement: Musitso Kugwita, Orchestral Finale

from Chopi Musicians,
by Hugh Tracey.
Oxford University Press, 1948


Footnotes

  1. Hugh Tracey, Chopi Musicians: their music, poetry and instruments (Oxford University Press, 1948), p.145.
  2. The charge is that the Portuguese consume everything, eggs and chickens, without regard for the future.
  3. Chopi migrants to the South African mines were paid in English pounds. They resented having to change these to Portuguese escudos on their return, at discounts of up to 10%.
  4. Kapitini: a newly-appointed court messenger, throwing his weight around.
  5. Bakubakwane: an official serving Chief Wani Zavala, had brought a message to Katini he was to finish building his hut before the rains. Kapitini then countermanded this order, telling Katini to work on his Timbila, and sending his men, Malova and Dibuliani, to beat him up, along with his wife Mashewani who died shortly afterwards.
  6. Sjambok: A whip, made of hippo or rhino hide.
  7. Chipau and Fainde are fellow musicians, called as witnesses.
  8. Not the pound of the 4th movement, but the colonial hut tax.
  9. The reference is to the palmatoria, a perforated wooden paddle used for corporal punishment in Portuguese schools and in the colonies.
  10. Sibuyeye was not a Chopi by birth, but related to the Gaza (Shangaans), across the Limpopo River. His appointment as a chief’s messenger was resented, especially when he intruded into Mahashi Bingwana, closed to Katini’s home village.
  11. A man called Mahambane had reported to Wani Zavala that Katini was neglecting his music. In fact, he was in his hut composing his ng’godo, and Faine his fellow musician is called as witness.
  12. Chimuke was the nickname for an earlier Portuguese chefe, and a stickler for etiquette.
  13. A slightly complicated reference to a dispute over a chieftaincy, which was resolved as the next four lines describe.
  14. Another chieftaincy dispute, which was settled in Manjengwe’s favour after Fambanyane had resorted to violence.
  15. Masawa: Katini’s sister in law, an attractive widow.
  16. Her admirer who was slow in proposing. The song teases Chidodo into making up his mind.