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Playing desert music for 45 years

by Daniel Brown

Article published on the 2009-01-02 Latest update 2009-01-06 15:01 TU

Pops Mohamed's celebrated exchange with the Khoisan.Photo: Melt 2000

Pops Mohamed's celebrated exchange with the Khoisan.
Photo: Melt 2000

Pops Mohamed is one of South Africa’s most respected multi-instrumentalists and producers. He just celebrated his 59th birthday, and 45th year as a musician. Despite his age, he continues to defend the musical traditions of the Khoi San people in the Kalahari desert. They have nourished his music for as long as he can remember, and he continues to marvel at the diversity and wealth of one of the world's oldest cultures.

Yet, the encroachment of modern society has reduced the population of the Khoisan to only 13,000 people, huddled on the Namibia-Botswana borders.

World tracks: Pops Mohamed + Julius Nkuna

06/01/2009 by Daniel Brown

For decades, their tragic plight was hidden in ludicrously clichéd films like the 1980 comedy The Gods Must be Crazy by Jamie Uys.  

(Photo: Calabash Music)

Pops continues to take the long and arduous road north from his Johannesburg home to the Khoisan, some of whom are related to him (he is a quarter Khoisan).  Examples of the resulting albums abound in his long career, but perhaps the best is Ancestral Healing: From New York to Jo’burg.

But this is not the only project the artist is involved in and Pops Mohamed is hard to pin down at the best of times.

In 2008 alone, he instigated an African history week in Norway, took over the musical directorship of the Sibikwa African Orchestra and travelled to Nepal for the Kathmandu Folk music festival. Later in 2009, he will perform on the kora in Malawi.

World Tracks' other guest this week is Julius Nkuna, a singer and percussionist in Johannesburg. His up-tempo jazz album Xirilo was released in September 2008. Nkuna dedicates it to victims of violence and the HIV virus and, on a personal note, to two of his brothers who have passed away.

Both South African artists were involved in the annual Moshito conference in September, to which World Tracks was invited. Our thanks go to WOMEX for helping in the making of this programme.

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