People cannot help but get this feeling (ihlombe) when they sing!

At the Drum Café a fundamental concept to our work is “Ihlombe, a concepts from traditional South African culture in our interactive team building and learning activities. A fundamental concept to our work is “Ihlombe”, the excerpt below from The Drum Café book “Traditional Music of South Africa” by Laurie Levine explains this concept.

“A Xhosa woman once said:

‘Speak to me about music and you bring joyous excitement to the Xhosa.People cannot help but get this feeling (ihlombe) when they sing; even those who listen to them shudder (-hlasimla) when they hear music.’

The Xhosa use ihlombe, a word that has no equivalent in the English language, to express the transcendental feeling induced by music. It transports people to a state of overwhelming joy in which they become so acutely moved that they are compelled to stand up and participate. The impact of ihlombe is most apparent when the song rises in volume and pitch, and the dancers work themselves into a frenzied trance-like state. Large-scale performances are more likely to induce ihlombe because the strength of the group dynamic heightens the intensity of the experience. The term ihlombe holds such relevance that among some Xhosa it has become a synonym for song or music. Xhosa music is traditionally defined by the term ingoma yesiXhosa, which encompasses music in its broadest sense, ranging from the traditional to the more modern genres. Ihlombe can only be induced by music, which is why the Xhosa have such an intimate relationship with this artistic form of expression. The more music there is in the community, the more ihlombe is evoked in its people.”

Over many years of interactive activities with many different kinds of groups in South Africa and around the world we have seen this concept in action. We know that when we root our work in timeless African concepts we are able to profoundly reach a group and effect magical change.


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