Tonight our team gathered for pizza and down time after the long AIDS Day. Nathan started playing the guitar, and we all drifted into singing Christmas Carols around the piano, a pretty amazing experience. We are small in numbers, but both of our men can SING and Sarah breaks regularly into angelic descants. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was drawing to a close as we heard clapping and flutes out on the road, and then all sorts of wildness erupting next door. So we flowed out of our house and gathered in my neighbors' yard. Tomorrow they will celebrate the "Final Rites" for the late John Mukiddi. Because he was an old man and respected elder when he died, they have waited months to make a big deal of the final ceremony which rests his spirit. The process began after dark (days start at sunset) as his clan members paraded up the road and began to dance. About two dozen men, some shirtless, danced around the open fire, their shadows wavering against the wall of the house. Each carried a single-tone flute which they blow in a very distinctive rhythm and four-tone pattern, swaying and jumping, while two men beat waist-high drums right by the fire. The individuals were blurred in the shadowy darkness and the drifting smoke, the line an organism in itself. Our whole team watched for about an hour. How many people in 2008, I thought, wander next door and witness authentic traditional dance and music in an under-the stars not-for-tourists ceremony? Well, I guess lots of Africans do, but not many outsiders.
The down side is, that to truly honor Mukiddi and protect the rest of the family, they will keep this up ALL NIGHT a few yards from our bedroom. And remember that we live practically outdoors anyway, screens and no glass, no sound barriers. It is now 10 pm and the flute-playing men have given way to a teenage choir singing at double pace and double volume every Lubwsis song we've ever heard in church complete with pounding drums and whooping women and shrill whistles. Think pep rally. The crowd increases hour by hour, and we are weary. I think we may go down and sleep by the cows, which I suppose is in the Christmas spirit.