Scramble for Africa Scenario - Ujuba na takaburi

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2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Suspended cymbal, Bass drum, Tam-tam, Crash cymbals, 5 Kalimbas, African Marimba, Marimba, Djembe, Djembe Ensemble, Congas, Batas, Axatse, 5 Shakers, Choir, Strings


In my mind, the scramble for Africa scenario music could have taken one of two forms - the first being from the European perspective, using traditional European folk tunes that may have been played regularly on the European journeys to colonize Africa. The second would be from the African perspective, using a melody or text that would exemplify how the various African nations took to the colonizing Europeans. Of course, there could have been a mixing of the two as well, but when lead designer, Ed Beach, gave me the direction of “give the feel that you are in Africa” and “Lots of drums of course!”, the most appropriate choice was clearly the second one. 

I first sought out to find an appropriate source melody. I knew choosing a South African source melody would not be a wise choice because of the inclusion of the leader Shaka and the Zulu Kingdom. I ran across the fascinating polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies thanks to their inclusion on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I tried to find something fitting, but the style and subject matter of the songs did not seem to fit the scramble for Africa scenario. 

My search turned towards African poetry, rather than African source melodies or songs. I ran across a detailed paper written by M. M. Mulokozi, entitled Revolution and Reaction in Swahili Poetry, which included excerpts of, and in some cases, entire poems in Swahili. 

A few poems stood out as fitting for describing the African perspective of the European colonisation in the research paper. I settled on a poem entitled Ujuba na takaburi, which is actually written towards the Arab rulers who preceded the Europeans. Interestingly, as the Europeans took power in East Africa, the indigenous people felt more at liberty in expressing their hatred of the Arab rule that preceded the European rule. Ujuba na takaburi was written around 1900, right in the middle of the historical scramble for Africa, often dated from the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1914. 

The text is as follows:

Ujuba na takaburi, uli kwenu walikuwa
ya kufanyiza jeuri, ya kupiga na kuua
Leo hapana shauri, kuuza wala kununua
illa ni kufilisiwa, hadi ni kuza sahani.

Ati wale wakisema, Unguja tutanunua,
Kulla penyi rumba njema, mwenyewe tutamtoa
Leo kanda la mtama, nyumbani lawasumbua
illa ni kufilisiwa, hadi ni kuza sahani.

The language is apparently an old Swahili dialect, and is quite difficult to translate, even for fluent modern-day speakers of Swahili. Here is a rough paraphrase of the poem by Melanda Busolo:

you came here (africa) from your land in arrogant tyranny and overbearing pride ,
your coming was marked with violence and bloodshed...
we are not able to trade and make a living as we used to before...
We are so poor that we have to sell our plates...

If you come here thinking that you will simply bribe and buy zanzibar from us,
we will cut short your festivities and dance , 
and send you home to eat like poor men do,
then you will be poor to the point of selling your plates...

The scramble for Africa scenario music is the only piece I composed for the Civilization V: Brave New World that is not based on or inspired by an existing melody. The instrumentation includes a diverse array of African instruments (lots of drums of course!) and the block chord structure of the choir parts is reminiscent of traditional South African singing, which most Western ears hear as distinctly African (Disney’s The Lion King, for example, uses South African choir throughout). We had the privilege of working with a South African choir, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Choir, for this recording, as well Shaka’s leader pieces, the opening movie, and the Brave New World theme. I knew before composing this scenario music that we would be recording with the South African choir, thus another reason for leaning towards a South African style for this scenario music. 

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