How old is the zulu dance

Zulu Dance - Eshowe

Traditional Zulu dancing is an important part of the Zulu culture. Dancing is usually performed during a traditional Zulu ceremony, and is accompanied by vibrant singing and sometimes the beating of drums. Zulu dancing is something quite spectacular, especially when the men and women are fully dressed in their traditional attire.

Shembe Dancers
Zulu Women Dancing
Sangomas Dancing

It is customary that unmarried and young men dance, alternating in separate groups, occasionally the married women and men break in and join the festivities. Married women utter a quavering shrill (ukukikiza). When the young women (izintombi) dance, the young men clap and play the drum and vice versa.

Ingoma (isizingili)

This is a dance performed by boys and girls without drums and accompanied by a chant. The girls wear woolen skirts and are usually bare-chested. They also wear rattles made of seedpods around the ankles to accent the high kicks.

The Ingoma is one of the purest remnants of Zulu tradition. Boys and girls perform the dance for transition ceremonies such as coming of age, weddings. In the past it was performed before a hunt as well as before battle. For the youth it instils the tradition of sharing experiences and building solidarity through communal dance.

Ingoma (isishameni)

A harmonising performance with boys and girls together but dancing separately. The boys clap while the girls dance and vice-versa.


This traditional dance is most often associated with Zulu culture. It is performed with drums and full traditional attire and is derived from the war dances of the warriors.

This war dance is untouched by Western influence probably because it is regarded as a touchstone of Zulu identity. Full regimental attire, precise timing and uncompromised posture are required. It is danced by men of any age wearing skins (amabeshu), headrings, ceremonial belts, ankle rattles, shields and weapons like knobkerries and spears. While indlamu uses similar steps as girls do for ingoma, it has a much more calculated, less frantic feel, showing off muscular strength and control of the weapons with mock stabs at imaginary enemies. Dancers are more likely to make eye contact with the audience. Various drums and whistles accompany the dance.

Both indlamu and ingoma are performed at weddings; women perform the Ingoma and men perform the Indlamu.


This dance is only performed by one participant and is a parade to show off the traditional attire of the Zulu men and women. Imvunulo is also the traditional attire in this dance, representing one’s role and position in society.

Dress is determined by age, rank and gender. Young ones do not cover their thighs, but adults should. Men wear amabeshu and women wear leather skirts and beaded aprons. A leather skirt worn by a women is connected with being pregnant or a desire to be pregnant. Over that she wears beaded aprons, presented on her wedding day by her father. Colours in the aprons can signify where the dancer comes from. Girls’ beadwork girdles are called ‘isigege’ and should not contain red beads as these are reserved for married women.


This is performed by men or boys standing in a straight line or arc. The music is balladic and the lyrics pertain to modern issues but use ancient melodies. Issues like aids, crime and migrant labour. The lead singer provides the counterpoint or rhythm. The music form symbolises life in rural Zululand and the townships. This dance has become internationally known.

There are special wedding songs and dances called ‘umBholoho’ and form a structured ritual to channel mutual antagonism between families of the bride and groom. Families take turns to outdo each other in beautiful dancing and song.

BAM | DanceAfrica

Music of the Khoisan
The original inhabitants of Southern Africa were the Khoi and San people, collectively known as the Khoisan. Their music is largely made of chants. Music played a central role in their rituals. For the Khoisan music is a means to transcend to spirituality, where they intentionally engage with the ancestors. They chant and make dance movements that mimic the movements of animals such as the antelope. One of the South African artists to revisit the way of the Khoisan is Pops Mohamed. His main motivation for doing this was to review his own heritage. Other artists who reach into their deepest roots include Quintin Goliath, also known as Jitsvinger, and the rapper, Richard Roodt, also known as Quaz. Khoisan rhythms influenced the music of the colored people of the Cape, and helped them mimic the festival sound known as the goema, an end product of a combination of cultures, including Malay and Khoisan. It also overlaps with numerous rhythms made by the Afrikaners. The music and dance tendencies found among the Khoisan people can be noticed in all the other ethnic groups of South Africa. Although there are significant differences among the groups, here we focus on the similarities as we explore the music and dance of South African people.

Zulu Songs and Dances
Similar to the South African Culture section, in talking about South African songs and dances we will use the Zulu culture, because isiZulu is spoken by almost half of the whole population of the country. Unlike other cultures, where songs and dances can stand alone, in Zulu culture, songs and dances are intertwined. As we talk about the kind of songs, it will come together with the dances that correspond to it. There are many types of songs and dances, which cannot necessarily be easily contained in this study, but here we have selected seven key songs and dances, namely Indlamu, Isicathamiya, Maskandi, Pata-Pata, Umzabalazo (struggle), gospel and Hip-Hop. We also have three key dances that go with a wide variety of songs, and those are Indlamu, Gumboot dance and some contemporary dances. We will look at five contemporary dances, namely, Kwaito, Patsula, Kwas-kwasa, Gqom-Vosho and Gwara-gwara.

Traditional dancing is an important part of Zulu culture. It is usually performed during a traditional Zulu ceremony, and is accompanied by vibrant singing and sometimes a musical instrument such as izigubhu (drums), isiginci (guitar), imintshingo (flutes) or any number of the available instruments. Zulu dancing is quite spectacular, especially when the men and women are fully dressed in their traditional attire.

Indlamu and Ingoma
Indlamu dance is most often associated with the Nguni, including Zulu, Swazi, and Ndebele or Xhosa cultures. It is derived from the war dances of amabutho (warriors). It is performed individually or as a team, with precise timing and uncompromised posture. Its chief characteristic is heavy stomping that coordinates with heavy sounds resulting from accompanying izigubhu (drums). It is danced by many of any age. At its best, it can be identified by a set of full traditional attire pieces, including amabheshu (loin skins) and other related traditional accessories, including head-rings, ceremonial belts, ankle rattles, shields and weapons like knobkerries and spears.

Ingoma, is agitatedly danced and integrates high kicking motions. It is a dance performed by boys and girls without drums and accompanied by a chant. The Ingoma is one of the purest remnants of Zulu tradition. Boys and girls perform the dance for transition ceremonies such as coming of age and weddings. In the past, it was performed before a hunt as well as before battle. For the youth, it instils the tradition of sharing experiences and building solidarity through communal dance. Ingoma is a coordinating performance with boys and girls together but can also be danced separately. The boys clap while the girls dance and vice-versa. In ingoma, girls wear short beaded skirts and they usually go bare-breasted. On their ankles, they wear amafahlawane to accent the high kicks.

Both indlamu and ingoma are performed at ceremonies including childbirth, coming of age initiations, lobola (bride price ceremony), ‘weddings, and inaugurations of kings, victories, and numerous traditional festivals such as completion of projects like harvesting. In a nutshell, young women perform ingoma and men of all ages perform indlamu.

Isicathamiya has its origins in Johannesburg and other cities where the migrant workers from various homelands of Southern Africa assembled to work in the mines. After long hours of hard work under ground, the mine workers used to get together to sing songs about familiar subjects such as love, the life they missed about their homes and many other themes. The mine workers organized themselves into groups and they sang acapella. This kind of singing was called Mbube, meaning the male lion, with power. The migrants sang and danced vigorously like they do in indlamu. When the migrants started singing and dancing energetically, sometimes their heavy stomping moves damaged the stage, and with time, the vigorous moves were replaced by softer careful steps, like those made by a cat carefully moving to catch a mouse. Such moves are called ukucathama. So, when the migrants adopted this kind of dance, the name isicathamiya came into existence. Culturally and traditionally, isicathamiya is influenced by Zulu indigenous beliefs such as: belief in a communal lifestyle, where each individual’s life matters. This is encapsulated in the Ubuntu African Philosophy. Early isicathamiya groups were named after animals such as Empangeni Home Tigers and Brave Lion Singers. The acclaimed Ladysmith Black Mambazo derived its name from its hometown of Ladysmith and the Mbazo from the metaphor of a sharp axe that chops without missing anything it targets. Isicathamiya is performed by men or boys standing in a straight line or arc. The music is balladic and the lyrics pertain to modern issues but use ancient melodies are found among collections of the popular Ladysmith Black Mambazo group. Through this group, Isicathamiya has become internationally known.

Similar to isicathamiya, another popular type of Zulu music is Maskandi. This type also emerged in the Johannesburg mines in the late 1960s, among migrant workers living in hostels and compounds (enkomponi) near mines. This music reflected a nostalgic yearning for home and was typically played on guitar and by men. Maskandi is a kind of Zulu music that a man walking a long distance to court a young woman would sing. It is sung with the accompaniment of a guitar or a concertina. It serves as a means of transport, because it drives a man to walk extremely long distances without realizing it, being pushed by the love for the woman and the melody of the music. It is the music of the man who sings of his real-life experiences, his daily joys and sorrows, his observations of the world. It is the music of the man who has Zulu blues.

Although, Maskandi music can be heard in more urban cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, it is important to note that it is largely played by migrants who come to the big cities to seek a better quality of life and better employment opportunities. This music is typically deeply rooted in rural Kwa-Zuli Natal, and feature heavy elements of Zulu culture.

Marabi, Kwela and Mbaqanga
In the first half of the 20th century, multicultural hubs sprang up in major cities, such as Sophiatown in Johannesburg, District Six in Cape Town, Marabastad in Pretoria and Umkhumbane in Durban. From these urban hubs emerged successive music genres, such as tshaba-tshaba and marabi that bridged the gap between traditional influences and contemporary international trends, particularly jazz. By the 1950s marabi was a favorite at illegal booze selling and drinking spots, called sheens. A classic example from this era is ‘Meadowlands’, written by Strike Vilakazi about the destruction of Sophiatown and the subsequent forceful removals to Meadowlands, Soweto. Some of the stars of the day were Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuka, Thandi Klaasen, Abigail Kubeka, The Manhattan Brothers and The African Inkspots. Another type of music of the same era is the Kwela, (whistle), characterized by its use of the pennywhistle. It became famous around the world in the 1950s. Its leading heroes were Spokes Mashiyane, Lemmy ‘Special’ Mabaso, Aaron ‘Big Voice’ Jack Lerole and Allan Kwela. Mbaqanga is a genre that emerged in the 1960s. It had its roots in traditional Zulu music, but also drew on various other inspirations to form a noticeably inner-city South African sound. It was South Africa's version of the American big band or swing sound. Musicians associated with this genre include the likes of West Nkosi, who has thrived through popular bands such as the Soul Brothers.

Phathaphatha (touch-touch)
"Pata Pata" is a pulsating South African dance that was introduced to the United States in the late 1960s. Associated with this dance is the late singer, and song writer Miriam Makeba, who wrote the song "Pata" in 1957, when she was still living in Johannesburg. She recorded and released the song when she was in exile in the United States in 1967.The dance steps for "Pata" originated in Johannesburg. The lyrics of Makeba's song along with the dance movements flowed together as a celebration of life. The catchy song beat and lyrics and the simple movements gathered a following through the 1970s and 1980s, with the "Pata" becoming a popular dance in many nightclubs across the world. Makeba laughingly called "Pata" the only dance song she ever wrote.

Umzabalazo (Songs of the Struggle)
During the apartheid period when black South African people were continually fighting the segregation and many oppressive measures that were exerted on them, one of the very powerful tools they used was singing and dancing. The songs they sang were called umzabalazo, (struggle). They used to clap hands as the music sounded very nice. Even their enemies, the oppressors of the time enjoyed listening and watching the dances, having no clue what this was all about, as the songs were in the indigenous languages of the black people.

Some of the songs include words such as ‘senzeni Na,’ meaning ‘what have we done?’ That song was just a simple, but heavy question. They would sing it over and over again and as they sang, the sadness would show on their faces. Even those among them, who were not necessarily aware of the troubles would be reminded and the urge to do something about their oppression came instantly. The force of the messages and rhythms made the people rise up and fight for their freedom.

Among many social and political movements the songs of umzabalazo gave voice to the voiceless people. They marched and chanted, doing the engaging call and response kind of singing, and the toyi-toyi dance, in which they jumped up and down. At those moments, even the most elderly of them, would all of a sudden, gain their youthfulness and urge to revolt against the oppressor.

The end of apartheid all of a sudden came with Mandela's release from prison in early 1990, the country began a long healing process, including major political configurations such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After the Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa, and after the country’s assuming its label as a Rainbow Nation, umzabalazo songs came to rest. A new wave of singing and dancing came up as a force of reclaiming the people’s lost identity.

Gospel songs
The very first gospel music to emerge among black South African people was in the 20th Century, within the Zionist Christian churches. Those first songs incorporated traditional African elements into worship, such as dancing vigorously such as found in indlamu dance. Those aspects of worship have maintained their nature to this day, where they are becoming more appreciated than ever before. There is a tendency for contemporary gospel groups, such as Soweto Gospel Singers and Joyous Celebration to incorporate Zionist styles of singing and dancing.

The strong connection between gospel music and traditions manifested in the 20th Century when countries of the whole African continent were in pursuit of their Independence. Enoch Sontonga, then a teacher, composed the hymn Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa), and it was regarded as the anthem for the whole continent. The lyrics of the anthem that has now become the national anthem of South Africa is a prayer for God to bless South Africa and the whole continent, Africa. In the early 1990s, Vusi Ximba's, a traditionalist released his album Siyakudamisa (1992), which was perhaps the most memorable Zulu-traditional album of the later 20th century, and drew controversy for lascivious, comedic lyrics.

Post-Apartheid music
During the Apartheid era music in South Africa had been focused on the vile nature of apartheid, and when it finally came to an end in 1994, the biggest question those interested in South African performance arts was what the artists were going to address in their singing. When South African media was liberalized finally, new musical styles arose. Prophets of Da City became known as a premier hip hop crew, though a South Africanized style of hip hop known as kwaito soon replaced actual hip hop groups. This music genre emerged in Johannesburg. It is a variant of house music that features the use of African sounds, and often contains catchy melodic and percussive loop samples, and vocals. Although it is similar to hip hop music, Kwaito has a distinctive manner in which the lyrics are sung, rapped and shouted. Kwaito performances require the audience to interact through verbal responses. It is done in a call-and-response manner. The artist engages the audiences or listeners, who in turn listen attentively and respond when required. It is also sung in one or more of South Africa’s languages, which makes it even more popular with its audience. The word kwaito is an isicamtho term from the Gauteng townships and includes styles that range from guz, d'gong, and isgubhu to swaito. The word originates from the Afrikaans kwaai which is slang term equivalence of the English term, hot. Kwaito led a post-Apartheid township subculture into the mainstream. In spite of Afrikaans’s being associated with the apartheid regime and racial oppression, Afrikaans words are often drawn into the isicamtho vocabulary, reshaped and used in a new context. Another Isicamtho word derived from the Afrikaans word kwaai is amakwaitosi, which means gangster. Kwaito stars include Trompies, Bongo Maffin and Boom Shaka, but Arthur Mafokate is regarded as the king of this genre.

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Balls and traditions.

Interesting facts

Ball, ball, ball!!!

Ball is always a holiday. Bright, colorful, sparkling, cheerful. And this holiday has always been desired and loved in Russia.

Balls were given all year round, but the season began in late autumn and continued throughout the winter. Often in one evening I had to attend two or three balls, which required considerable strength, besides, many balls ended in the morning, and the next day it was necessary to make visits and prepare for the upcoming amusements.

Balls and masquerade balls were divided into class, professional, age categories, timed to coincide with special celebrations, and were court, public, private, merchant, wedding, children's ...

Balls of the Noble Assembly, balls of artists and balls held by foreign embassies, merchant balls.

History of balls in Russia

The first ball in Russia took place in Moscow at the wedding of False Dmitry and Marina Mnishek.
Peter I resumed the balls, and since then they have become loved and revered both in the capitals and in the provinces of the Russian Empire.
Peter's assemblies became the prototype of future balls. The assemblies were gatherings with dances. Assemblies began to be held in St. Petersburg and Moscow as early as 1717 in the homes of the Russian nobility.

Assemblies served not only as a means of entertainment - "for fun", but also a place "for reasoning and friendly conversations."

Then, during the reign of Anna Ioannovna, Elizabeth Petrovna and Catherine II, assemblies completely supplanted balls and masquerade balls.

A ball is a solemn public or secular event, the main component of which is a dance program.

Therefore, since the 18th century, dance has become a compulsory subject in all higher and secondary educational institutions, schools and boarding schools. It was studied at the royal lyceum and at modest vocational and commercial schools, at the gymnasium and at the cadet school.

In Russia, they not only perfectly knew all the latest and old ballroom dances, but also knew how to perfectly perform them. The dance culture of Russia in the 19th century stood at a high level.

Ballroom dress code

The ball has its own ceremonial and rules of conduct, which makes it so majestic and luxurious. All this allowed to maintain sophistication and attractiveness.

It was customary to come to the ball dressed smartly. Cavaliers - in a tailcoat pair, tuxedo or suit (depending on specific requirements and conditions), white shirt and vest. By the way, tailcoats were of different colors, only by the end of the 30s of the XIX century the fashion for black was established.

White gloves were an obligatory item of clothing for gentlemen. The civilians wore kid gloves, and the military wore suede gloves.
Moreover, according to the rules, the lady had every right to refuse the gentleman without gloves. Therefore, it was better to come to the ball in black gloves than no gloves at all.

Civilian gentlemen's costumes depended little on fashion and were recommended to be sewn in classical forms.

The military came in dress uniforms corresponding to their regiments.

Cavaliers came to the ball in boots. Ballroom boots were also worn by the military, and only uhlans were allowed to wear boots. The presence of spurs was not approved. The fact is that the spurs tore the dresses during the dance. But some lancers broke this rule for the sake of panache.

Ladies and girls dressed in dresses according to fashion. As a rule, the dress was sewn for one ball and only in extreme cases was used twice.

Ladies could choose any color for the dress, if it was not specifically agreed. For example, on January 24, 1888, an emerald ball was held in St. Petersburg, at which all those present were dressed in the appropriate color.

Dresses for girls were made in white or pastel colors - blue, pink and ivory, that is, the color of "ivory".

Matching gloves or white gloves were matched with the dress. By the way, wearing rings over gloves was considered bad manners. Even more interesting facts can be found in the historical park "Russia-My History".

Ladies could adorn themselves with a headdress.

The girls were encouraged to have a modest hairstyle. But in any case, the neck had to be open.

The cut of ball gowns depended on fashion, but one thing remained unchanged in it - open neck and shoulders.

With such a cut of the dress, neither a lady nor a girl could appear in society without jewelry around the neck - a chain with a pendant or a necklace. That is, something had to be worn necessarily.

Ladies' jewelry could be any - the main thing is that they were chosen with taste. Girls were supposed to appear at balls with a minimum amount of jewelry, for example, with a pendant around their neck or a modest bracelet.

An important component of the ladies' ball costume was the fan, which served not so much to create a fresh breath, but as a language of communication, now almost lost.

Recovering to the ball, the lady took with her a ball book - carne or agend - where, opposite the list of dances, she entered the names of gentlemen who wanted to dance this or that dance with her. Sometimes the reverse side of the fan could be used instead of the agend. It was considered excessive coquetry to brag about your completed agenda, especially to those ladies who were rarely invited.

Rules of conduct at the ball

By accepting the invitation to come to the ball, everyone thus assumed the obligation to dance. Refusing to participate in dances, as well as showing dissatisfaction or making it clear to a partner that you dance with him only out of necessity, was considered a sign of bad taste. And vice versa, it was considered a sign of good education at the ball to dance with pleasure and without coercion, regardless of the partner and his talents.

At a ball, more than at any other social event, a cheerful and amiable expression is appropriate. To show at the ball that you are not in a good mood or are dissatisfied with something is inappropriate and impolite in relation to those having fun.
Starting conversations with acquaintances before paying tribute to the owners was considered indecent. At the same time, not greeting acquaintances (even with a nod of the head) was also unacceptable.

There was a special culture of invitation to dance at the balls. An invitation to a dance was allowed in advance, both before the ball itself and at the ball. At the same time, it was considered impolite if a lady arrived at the ball promising more than the first three dances in advance.

In the ballroom, order and dancing are supervised by the ball steward.
During the ball, gentlemen should monitor the comfort and convenience of the ladies: bring drinks, offer help. The gentleman had to make sure that his lady was not bored.
Talking at a ball is certainly permissible. At the same time, it is not recommended to touch on complex and serious topics, as well as to gather a large company around you.

Buffoonery is not appropriate at balls. Even gentlemen who have a too cheerful disposition are advised to behave with dignity at the ball. Quarrels and quarrels between gentlemen are highly discouraged during the ball, but if disagreements arise, then it is recommended to resolve them outside the dance hall. Ladies are the main decoration of any ball. Therefore, it behooves them to behave affably and nicely. Loud laughter, slander, bad humor can cause disapproval of a decent society. The behavior of the ladies at the ball should be distinguished by modesty, the expression of extreme sympathy for any gentleman can give rise to condemnation.

Most of all, any manifestations of jealousy on the part of ladies and gentlemen are inappropriate at the ball. On the other hand, immodest looks and defiant behavior that provokes other participants in the ball are also unacceptable.


According to the rules, the gentleman began the invitation to dance with the hostess of the house, then all her relatives followed, and only then it was the turn to dance with their familiar ladies.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the ball opened with a polonaise, where in the first pair the host walked with the most honored guest, in the second pair - the hostess with the most honored guest.
At the end of the 19th century, the ball began with a waltz, but court, children's and merchant balls opened with a majestic polonaise.

During the 19th century, the number of dances that a gentleman could dance with one lady during a ball changed. So at the beginning of the century this number was equal to one, and already in the 1880s two or three dances were allowed, not following one after another in a row. Only the bride and groom could dance more than three dances. If the gentleman insisted on more than expected number of dances, the lady refused, not wanting to compromise herself.

During the dance, the gentleman entertained the lady with light secular conversation, while the lady answered modestly and laconic.
The cavalier's duties also included preventing collisions with other couples and preventing his lady from falling.

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