San instrumental music is not generally performed before an audience with all the tension that isolation of the performer implies.
Instead the people play for themselves, when the mood strikes them. Others nearby may go on with what they are doing, stop and listen,or join in .
The instrumental music presented here, from both periods, is performed on traditional instruments-ones which rely on materials found in the natural environment-and on innovative instruments-ones which use materials, such as metal wire and cans, which can only be obtained through trade. The traditional
instruments include the hunting bow (a wooden bow and gut string), the pluriarc (a wooden, guitar-like body with 5 gut strings), and the te bow (a vertical wooden post and gut string). In its "modernized" form, the base of the pluriarc is made of an empty gallon oil can while the strings are changed from gut to hair from the tail of a giraffe . The hunting bow is transformed by a metal wire in place of the gut string, and in another form, it has a tin can as a resonator . Another instrument found only relatively recently among the !Kung (30 years at most) is the sitengena, or "tumb piano" (wooden base and metal keys) . Probably borrowed from neighboring peoples, it was one of the most highly favored and most often heard instruments among young people (1969-76).
recordings by Nicholas England 1951-55 in Namibia
and from 1969-1972 and Marjorie Shostak in Botswana
stop and listen or join in