V/A - Taa! Our Language May Be Dying, But Our Voices Remain (Botswana) - CD

12,00 €



Mesmerizing field recordings from Botswana. Producer/recordist/Grammy winner Ian Brennan ventured to an end-of-the-road location to document songs sung in Taa, a rich language on the verge of extinction. This captivating music is created by solo and layered voices, handclaps, found percussion and thumb piano.

Shamanic, ghostly ballads from the farthest reaches of Southern Africa.

Volume #11 of our acclaimed Hidden Musics series.

The Taa language in Botswana possesses 112 sounds, the most of any language in the world. In contrast, English has approximately 44 sounds, Italian 32. But there are only around 2,500 Taa speakers remaining and the language is “dying.”

The songs on this album are mostly mantras— prayers that repeat the same words or phrases over and over again. The song titles tell entire stories by themselves, and with the Taa language’s heavy use of click consonants, the sounds carry the meaning as much as the words.

The name of the Taa language itself translates to “human being,” making its threat of extinction all the more poignant— the language living in the people, not on the page.

The explanation of lyrics often took longer than the songs themselves— difficult to translate, complex thoughts encapsulated in a single word.


Botswana is diamond-drunk nation, hosting the biggest diamond mine on earth. But the Taa villages at the furthest reach of dead-end dirt roads are where the country expires and the people are left forgotten by unguarded borders. One village’s name literally translates to “the very end.”

Wherever we reached, elderly shamans— two who were blind— gathered and played ghostly ballads. Yet, they told us that there were many other songs and those could not be played since performing them in the daytime would bring bad luck.

One shaman’s son said he hadn’t heard the music performed since he was a child in the 1980s, over thirty years ago. Many were “homemade-beer, drinking songs.” Another shaman’s parents taught him to play the thumb piano as a way of remembering them after they were gone

Botswana is so flat, at sunset you can see the earth’s own shadow— the horizon bending back on itself. We visited the highest point in the country, a hill that would barely register as one elsewhere. It is a land largely defined by absence.

The towns resembled trailer-parks in America’s southwest. So much so, they could’ve easily passed for Barstow save for the Botswana cowboys riding bareback donkeys.

It took an hour-and-a-half to travel fifteen miles on gravel road and was sixty kilometers in the opposite direction to the nearest school. Encircled in a white dust-cloud of our vehicle’s own making, we didn’t cross a soul for over an hour— just the occasional misspelled road sign, with local names anglicized.