County educator follows different beat Music curriculum to be developed from Africa trip ANNE ARUNDEL EDUCATION

September 27, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Bruce Horner, the coordinator of music for the Anne Arundel County school system, traveled to the African country of Namibia this summer hoping to record and videotape the indigenous music and dances.

Imagine his surprise when the first performance he was to record featured 1950s-style rock and roll. Elvis Presley welcomes you to Namibia.

"It was a program called 'Shu-bop, shu-bop,' sponsored by the University of Namibia," Mr. Horner said.

"The influence of Western and European culture in Namibian culture is quite strong and quite significant, partly because Namibia was a colony of Germany from the middle of the 1800s to the end of World War I," he said.

Mr. Horner visited Namibia, which was known as South-West Africa until it won its independence from South Africa in 1989, to develop a music curriculum that will be used in school systems and colleges throughout the state.

The five-week trip was paid for by a Fulbright-Hays Group Studies Abroad grant from the U.S. Department of Education that was given to the Maryland Consortium. The consortium includes the Maryland State Department of Education, Bowie State University, Coppin State College, Morgan State University, Sojourner-Douglass College and University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

Later this fall, Mr. Horner will turn his project over to state education officials, who will package it with the work of eight other scholars who went on the trip.

The other projects on Namibian culture are visual art, child welfare, the educational system, history, economics, children's literature and public administration.

The multimedia package, which will be distributed as a unit and in individual publications, will be available early next year, Jay Tucker of the state department of education said.

The county school system encouraged Mr. Horner's participation as a means of developing its multicultural curriculum.

"As a school system and as a music department, we've made a significant commitment to multicultural education," Mr. Horner said.

Furthermore, after a review of the county's curriculum, "the African American subcommittee felt that in all areas, not just in music, that we needed to make some progress," Mr. Horner said. "So I have been trying to equip myself and my staff with methods and materials, and there is not an abundance of it out there."

Mr. Horner said he was able to record some extraordinary traditional musical performances in Namibia.

"The music is rich and varied, so it's hard to describe," he said. "You will find it almost always connected to ceremony, ritual and the regular affairs of life, just the things that people do from day to day. And it's very mundane things, very ordinary things that they tend to sing about."

A common setting for a performance is a party in a small village. The singing is accompanied by three drummers. Another musician keeps a strong, pounding beat with a pole and container normally used for grinding corn for flour.

Sometimes a xylophone with wooden bars, called a silimba, accompanies the singing. Although the silimba is tuned to the familiar Western scale, "there are a number of instruments where the scale or the tuning is unique to that chief or that tribe, and it would consequently sound different or strange to our ears," Mr. Horner said.

Particularly memorable, Mr. Horner said, was a trip to the remote Caprivi Strip, a finger of land between Zambia and Botswana, where he recorded the best performance of the trip at a secondary school in a village called Rundu.

Children at the school, called Leevi Hakusembe, were unable to travel to a traditional festival to perform earlier in the year because the school didn't have enough money. A performance for the visitors from the United States made up for the disappointment.

"I got a chance to hear a chorus perform and a dance that, in terms of the standards of that country, was outstanding," Mr. Horner said. "It would represent the cream of what's happening in that country. You would not expect it in that place.

"Because the performance was so good, because it was so gripping, because it was a goose-bump producing event, the memory of it stays with me," he said.

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