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  • South Africa, Free At Last
    TOOLS FOR TEACHING
    South Africa, Free At Last
    The Freedom Songs of South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in America
    by Stacy Malachowski
    Penn State University

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Summary:

The following lesson is designed for high school choral students (and is easily adaptable for middle school choral or general music students) and includes experiences in creative musical activities related to the singing of South African freedom songs and the culture and performance practice behind the music. The lesson also invites students to explore the historical and cultural impacts of apartheid in South Africa from which these songs grew in opposition. The lesson segments also seek to provide a direct correlation, musically and historically, to the African American freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement.

Suggested Grade Levels: 9-12
Country: South Africa
Region: Africa
Culture Group: African
Genre: Freedom Songs
Instruments: Voice
Language: Zulu, English
Co-Curricular Areas: Social Studies
National Standards: 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Prerequisites: None

Objectives:
  • Understand and participate in oral tradition and improvisation.
  • Discuss the culture of South Africa.
Material:
Lesson Segments:
  1. Asikatali and South African Freedom Songs in General (National Standards 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  2. We Shall Overcome and This Little Light of Mine (National Standards 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

1. “Asikatali” and South African Freedom Songs in General

Objectives:

  1. Listen to several South African freedom songs and discuss the musical characteristics of each piece and the text (language/translation).
  2. Sing a South African freedom song in the context of proper performance practice of the oral tradition where one person leads the group and the other repeats.
  3. Create improvised harmonies around the original melody.
  4. Understand and discuss the culture and history behind the South African freedom song and apartheid.

Materials:

  1. Internet availability for Smithsonian Folkways
  2. Lyric sheet
  3. Freedom is Coming: Songs of Protest and Praise from South Africa, a songbook collection compiled and arranged by Anders Nyberg which contains a written arrangement of “Asikatali.SATB a capella. WB528. Published by Walton Music (HL.8500021).
  4. Paper and pencil
  5. Notebook

Procedure:

  1. Teacher has students echo phrases, spoken and sung, of the South African freedom song, “Asikatali.” The entire song will be taught by rote with the teacher leading while others repeat. The teacher will explain the meaning of the lyrics as the song is being taught.
  2. After the melody and text are learned, students will then be asked to create improvised harmonies around the original melody.
  3. Next, listen to a recording of “Asikatali” from South African Freedom Songs (Cat. # FWEPC601).
  4. Discuss what was heard. The teacher should explain the context of the piece and what the text means. Students and teacher should both discuss the musical aspects and emotion of the piece which they just heard.
  5. Students will learn an SATB arrangement of “Asikatali” from Anders Nyberg’s Freedom is Coming by rote.
  6. After learning the song in parts, several students will be chosen to be the leader and “lead” the group through beginnings of phrases and conducting the piece as they think it should be sung with regard to tempo, phrasing, and dynamics. The teacher should encourage students to experiment with regard to leading the group.
  7. Students will listen to two or three more South African freedom songs from the albums, This Land is Mine: South African Freedom Songs (Cat. # FW05588) and South African Freedom Songs (Cat. # FWEPC601).
  8. The teacher will lead a discussion about South African freedom songs and the apartheid movement and the strong opposition that came with it. Students should respond with their input and questions about this topic.

Assessment:

  • Students will sing the song in its original language without the teacher’s help.
  • Members of the group will reflect on the performance with regard to the culture and music discussed throughout the lesson, and write a response to the questions, What is a South African freedom song? Where did these songs derive from? What musical characteristics are prevalent throughout the genre? What is apartheid?
  • As a homework assignment, students will be asked to listen to various South African freedom songs from Smithsonian Folkways off of the albums, This Land is Mine: South African Freedom Songs (Cat. # FW05588) and South African Freedom Songs by various artists (Cat. # FWEPC601). After, each student will chose one song that he/she would like to write a brief paper about, explaining the text, how the song fits into the culture of the time, and any other interesting information pertaining to the music or performance practice.
  • Students will share their findings in class the next day and listen to the songs select students have chosen.

2. “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine”

Prerequisite: Some knowledge of South African freedom songs is needed in order to compare the freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement with the freedom songs of South Africa in procedure point G (this procedure could be eliminated if students do not have background knowledge of South African freedom songs).

Objectives:

  1. Listen to recordings of “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine,” discuss the meaning behind the songs, and notice the musical elements of each song as well.
  2. Sing two freedom/protest songs from the Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine,” in proper performance practice.
  3. Create improvised harmonies around each original melody.
  4. Create new lyrics to these songs within the character of each piece.
  5. Understand and discuss the history and culture behind the Civil Rights Movement.
  6. Compare, musically and historically, the freedom/protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement with the freedom/protest songs of the South African anti-apartheid movement and draw conclusions based on these findings.
  7. Sing a written arrangement of each of these songs with a deep understanding of the culture, the meaning behind the music, and the musical nuances specific to the African-American freedom song singing style.

Materials:

  1. Internet availability for Smithsonian Folkways
  2. Paper and pencil
  3. Notebook
  4. Written arrangements of “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine”

Procedure:

  1. Students will listen to songs by Freedom Singers and by an unlisted group of African-Americans from Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs from 1960-1966 (Cat. # SFW40084). Then students will listen to two different recordings of “This Little Light of Mine,” by The Montgomery Improvement Association and The Freedom Singers from Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs (Cat. # SFW40032).
  2. Students will be asked to list the musical elements, including a comparison of the two different recordings of each piece, and write a brief synopsis of what they think the meaning behind the songs might be.
  3. Students will then participate in a discussion of the meaning behind the songs, the culture, and the musical elements prevalent in each selection.
  4. Students will learn both songs by rote.
  5. Students will be asked to create new harmonies around the original melody with one student leading the group in singing.
  6. Students will then be asked to create new lyrics to “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Students will perform these new lyrics as they create them in the context of each song.
  7. Students will then compare the South African freedom songs with the freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement and draw conclusions from their findings.
  8. Students will learn written arrangements of “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine” by rote.
  9. Lastly, students will write brief program notes for “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine,” These notes will be read in class. These program notes could then be part of the performance if included in the choir performance repertoire.

Assessment:

  • Students will sing both songs without teacher help in proper performance practice.
  • Students will be assessed through their written program notes pertaining to the criteria of understanding the song and the culture.

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