The Understanding of Indigenous Knowledge as Indigenous Practice, Skill and Know-How: The Case of Communal Music-Making in Bapedi Culture as a Social Practice


  • Dr. Morakeng Edward Kenneth Lebaka Department of Art - Music, College of Human SciencesUniversity of South Africa (Unisa), Pretoria, South Africa



Bapedi people, indigenous knowledge, indigenous practice, social practice, communal music-making.


In Bapedi culture, understanding of indigenous knowledge as indigenous practice, skill and know-how, is largely related to musical preference and inborn talent. Bapedi people regard indigenous music and ancestral beliefs, as a complement to their cultural identity. Indigenous songs accompanied by dancing, handclapping, ululation and different types of percussion instruments have traditionally played a prominent role in preserving Bapedi people cultural heritage. The enculturation process of indigenous knowledge is oral memory-based. The following research question is raised for the study: Why is communal music-making in Bapedi culture regarded as a social practice? In this article, the author attempts to provide the relationship between indigenous knowledge as indigenous practice and communal music-making as a social practice within Bapedi people’s cultural context. Such an investigation has hitherto not been attempted and this article is meant as a contribution in furthering knowledge in Ethnomusicology and Indigenous Knowledge Systems. The present study investigated innovation and communal composing as a social practice, creative imagination, interaction of music and choreography, as well as issues of interest in the philosophy of indigenous Bapedi music. The study was conducted in two phases; the first phase involved visiting and interviewing traditional musicians who are still performing the indigenous Bapedi music. The second phase included library search to determine what others have written on the same issue. The study has revealed that learning music is part of the socialisation process and imitation forms an important part in the transmission process. Individuals contribute ideas about song texts, polyphonic organization, melody and overall form. The resulting composition is therefore their song, not a named individual. The results have also shown that through music, Bapedi people not only learn the music itself, they also learn about their own local culture and as such preserve the Bapedi cultural heritage.