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Moving to Music – The Isicathamiya Effect

I have long loved the traditional South African choral song -‘isicathamiya’ – of Joseph Shabalala and his group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The group has spread the message of peace, love and harmony for 47 years, and teaching people about South Africa and the culture of the Zulu people. So great has been their success and popularity that they have performed at many musical award shows, the Olympics, South African Presidential inaugurations and Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies.

A few nights ago I had the great pleasure of seeing and hearing them live for the first time. One thing I think anyone who has seen them live would agree is that the performance of this group stirs something in you. And not only the music, but the presence of these artists and the way they dance. (Their movements are derived from the tradition of the mine workers of South Africa and the ‘tip toe’ steps they used so as not to disturb the camp security guards during their weekly singing competitions.) Beyond the beautiful harmonies, this is powerful, moving stuff.

Reflecting on this and a call from organizers of the World Conservation Congress (Barcelona, Spain, October 2008) for event proposals, I’m wondering how we can harness the role of music in such events and more generally as we work? How can we use music to ‘stir something’ in participants and help move us to better work together in co-creating sustainable solutions to the challenges we face? Put on the music of your choice and share your thoughts (including your musical recommendations)…

3 replies
  1. Frits Hesselink
    Frits Hesselink says:

    Good idea – Lizzie! At the 50th anniversary of IUCN in Fontainebleau we had an impressive performance of musicians of ten different regions of the world. I could imagine you do something similar in Barcelona. But you could also have a space for each region in the fair where movies, photos and music picture the diversity of cultures and nature.
    In workshops you can use singing or chanting as ice breakers. I mail this to CEC member Roel van Raaij for ideas – he is a amateur orchestra conductor and often includes this discipline in his workshops. He may have good advice.

  2. Lizzie
    Lizzie says:

    Thanks Frits. I like the idea of regional spaces in the exhibition fair and I hope to hear from Roel -his experience and advice would be very welcome.

    In addition to the idea of using music for workshop ice breakers, i’m also interested in thinking about how it is / could be used during meetings – perhaps whilst groups are working or during breaks. I know of some tests using Mozart in science classes in schools. Do you know of anything similar in professional contexts?

  3. Frits Hesselink
    Frits Hesselink says:

    Interesting question. I know of one way to integrate music in the management of large meetings. It is nice and easy to implement. When a speaker has one minute left to speak, turn on the music very sofly, increase the volume every 10 seconds a little bit. Once he is really over his time, you just increase the volume every ten seconds to the extent that finally he cannot be heard anymore. Of course you have to tell speakers in advance, and inform the public of the procedure. You can use the same music when people enter the hall, during intervals, coffe breaks etc. This brings some coherence in the atmosphere of the meeting (sound branding). The choice will be a challenge. You better test your choice in advance. For some occastions you may need music that excites, for other ocasions music that calms. When groups are working, music can be a distraction, as they mostly talk and that is already a lot of noise.

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