There should be an image here!A song promoting a ‘rhythm for success,’ to inspire footballers to score more goals during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, has been composed by a Durham University researcher using a new ‘language’ for African drums.

The track, entitled, ‘Vuma! Unity, harmony, goal!’ is based upon a traditional South African rhythm and is designed to help football players and fans get into the spirit of the first ever World Cup to be held in South Africa next month.

Football fans all over the world will get a chance to sing along to Vuma as the song will be played on the terraces in South Africa during the World Cup. John Hemmingham, Managing Director and Leader of ‘The England Band’ said:

“The Vuma song and rhythm certainly captures the spirit of the South Africa World Cup 2010. The England Band will be in South Africa creating and experiencing that spirit having now added the Vuma song to our play list.”

Peter Okeno Ong’are, a researcher in the Music Department at Durham University, has developed a new notation system for drums to overcome a modern-day problem where the family tradition of teaching African drumming is being lost.

The notation method, which has been used for the first time in the composition of Vuma, is based upon a series of universal, easy-to-read and easy-to-write symbols. The song is the first song transposed into the notation and local schoolchildren are learning the rhythm, words and music from Peter.

Vuma is a fusion beat based upon a traditional South African rhythm. Peter, who hails from Kenya, said:

“Dancing to the Vuma rhythm can help players and fans acclimatise to the pace of life in South Africa. Let’s unite people in the universal language of rhythm!

“The words for the song mean: ‘We are in agreement as one. We are united and together we’ll succeed.’ It’s a positive message and rhythm to inspire prolific goal scoring, and unity and harmony for all football fans and players during the World Cup.”

Hitting the right beat, on the right part of the drum, and at the right time and in the right way, are crucial elements to the accurate playing and reproduction of hand drum rhythms.

In composing the notation, Peter aimed to develop a system which would allow people across the world to learn and perform African rhythms.

For his research, funded by the Ruth First Educational Trust and St Chad’s College, Durham University, he looked at established notation systems in music and tried different teaching techniques with hand drum students, from different cultures, to see what worked best. Having tested his ideas, he devised a symbol-based language to show drummers how to play rhythms that may call for specific hand drum techniques, including ‘the rub’ and ‘the damped slap’.

The new notation system enables drummers to record hand drum rhythms in a written format. This can be used to pass on the rhythm to other drummers (anywhere in the world) to learn and perform, without the need for a teacher to be present.

It enables people from different cultures to preserve their own unique drum patterns, and for these rhythms to be transposed, passed on and performed anywhere in the world.

Peter added: “Ancient hand drum rhythms in Africa used to be passed on from generation to generation: from family to family and from tribe to tribe.

“The traditional ties have changed, and so too the way in which we pass on drum patterns. The notation system will help people all over the world to learn and play African rhythms that might otherwise be lost forever.

“The notation method provides a method for archiving and performing traditional rhythms from any culture.”

The song is available on digital music services including iTunes.

Song: Vuma Phumelela

The song has some African lyrics and the meanings can be translated as:

1. Vuma: in most African languages this means: Agreement, be famous/ renowned

2. Phumelela: Means to succeed, Archive, to be successful, or good luck,

3. Laduma: An expression for goal

4. Ubuntu: Ubuntu is a Zulu word that stands for humanity and is a philosophy which stands for ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ which means a person is a person through other persons

Lyrics : Vuma Phumelela

Vuma Vuma Phumelela X4

Phumelela Phumelela X2 X2

1. All footballers for 2010

You are welcomed to South Africa

We wish you Phumelelo

In the spirit of Ubuntu

2. All the countries around the world

Come experience the ‘Rainbow Nation’

Dance to the tune of South Africa

To the tune of Laduma!

Carl Stiansen @ Durham University

[Photo above by Jennifer Su / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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