Trance Dancing the Ancient Way

John dancing at a traditional Xhosa ceremony in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. In Southern Africa we 'Sweat our prayers' through the trance dance or ‘xentsa’ .

This dancing practice is an integral part of traditional Southern African life. Traditional healers known as Sangomas use the dance to connect to their ancestral spirits. The word ‘Sangoma’ literally means ‘people of the song’ because they use particular kinds of chants and rhythms to connect to the spirit world. Sangomas are the traditional Shamans or medicine people of Southern Africa. The job of a Sangoma is to ‘nceda abantu ukuvula indlela’ – to help people realise their spiritual calling. For we believe that when people are in harmony with themselves then they are in harmony with the world around them. There is no word for depression in the Xhosa and Zulu language from SouthAfrica, only ‘umoya phezulu’ okanye ‘umoya phantsi’. Spirit energy up or spirit energy down. Through rhythm and song the Sangoma helps to uplift people and in doing so helps them realise their spiritual potential.

The Sangoma rhythm is part of the sacred music from South Africa. Whenever a Sangoma plays their drum in a particular way it is said that they invoke the spirits of the land and community. The drum beat is a particular heart beat rhythm that helps ground, calm and connect people to their roots (ancestors). I have been playing my drum and singing my Sangoma chants all over the world. I am pleased to say that no matter where I am people connect with their ancestors in the most profound and humbling ways. I have often been touched to hear people in New York or Mexico come to me a few days after a ceremony, recounting beautiful and uplifting dreams from their ancestors. Music is truly universal, and the Sangoma drum is a call to spirit and the unseen world. Now let us wake up! Now let us rejoice in the beauty of being alive. With our chants, hands and feet, we pound the earth and feel at one with all things. Camagu!  (We honour & praise the divine).

On the 17th August Londoners will dance and shake their bones like never before. Are you ready to wake up?