Mass’ People Of the numerous tribes who have remained attached to their traditional lifestyles and cultures in Africa, the Mass’ are indefinitely amongst some of the most well known. The Mamas occupy the lands between Kenya and Tanzania – their name for these seemingly infinite plains is the Serenity. They have successfully maintained a pastoral and nomadic lifestyle structured around their herds of cattle; the Magi’s relationship to their cattle is unprecedented in African culture.
Alongside living a unique lifestyle, the music of the Mamas people is also very unique. Some of the sequences they use in their songs can be seen elsewhere in Africa, however, there are many factors that contribute to a truly special product. The music of the Mass’ is an integral part of their culture; they have songs for Just about everything they do throughout their typical lives. There is a well known saying amongst the Mamas which translates “It takes one day to destroy a house; to build a new house will take months and perhaps years.
If we abandon our way of life to construct a new one, it will take thousands of years”4 A very stereotypical aspect that many would argue is an integral part of music culture n Africa is drumming. Although different types of drums – ranging from bongo drums to different snares and metal dopiness – are commonly used to create an easily identifiable beat in many songs, the Mass’ stand apart from these standards. In fact, the Mass’ are amongst a small group of people who hardly use any instruments at all in their musical performances.
With the exception of the Kudus horn in Unto ceremonies, the Mamas use no other instruments to accompany their singings. They sing typically in a call and answer style using occasional grunts and guttural sounds alongside chanting. A typical group of singers in the Mass’ community consists of a group of male Moran warriors in rows or a circler . They all partake in a polytechnic style of singing while usually one or sometimes multiple warriors dance in the middles. The most famous Mamas custom is the Dumdum dance.
Commonly referred to as the “Jumping dance”2, this style of dance only consists of one movement: Jumping. When Moran warriors enter a circle enclosed by other Moran warriors singing, they will jump as high as they can over and over spending as little time as possible on the ground. Their displays of athleticism, strength, stamina and undying enthusiasm are targeted towards crowds of Mass’ females in hopes that they can impress theme. They dance in accompaniment of their normal singing style; chapels, grunting, guttural noises and beads are used to create a rhythmic basis for the dumdum.
However, not all members of the Mamas community take part in the Dumdum dance; there are a series of ceremonies that Mass’ boys must undergo first in order to become a respectable member of the Moraine. There is a thriving culture of warrior-hood and man-hood within the Mass’ people. Mamas Music By Yemeni member of the Mamas adult community and then eventually a Moran’ – a fear-less Mass’ warrior. The first ceremony that a typical Mamas boy must take part in is called Manipulate. Boys aged 14-16 will come together from all edges of the Mamas world and be put into a large plot of Mass’ land selected by the Lobbing (Mamas word for prophet).
In this area of land, usually 30-40 houses are built for the boys. The day before the ceremony begins, the boys must spend the night in a forest. At early dawn, they then return to their homestead in loose, black clothing and will articulate in song and dance throughout the entire day. Once the Manipulate is completed, the Mamas boys are now ready for their next and most important rite of passage: circumcision. Circumcision is without a doubt the most important coming of age ceremony. Mass’ boys are very eager for this ceremony in that they know once completed, they will become an official Mamas adult member.
Prior to the operation, a Mamas boy must herd cattle for seven days. Once this task is completed, the boy will be ready for circumcision. On the eighth day, the boy will first take a cleansing shower outside in happily cold weathers. When he makes his way towards where the operation will be held, his fellow age mates, friends and male family members who shout encouragement and even nasty comments, will engulf him. Older males will shout out comments such as “If you kick the knife, we will kill you! ” or “If you run away from the knife, your society will disown you! 4 . Obviously, the process is very unpleasant. Furthermore, the Mass’ do not utilize painkillers or anesthetics in any way to the patient, so they are fully aware and conscious during the entire operation. In addition, during the actual circumcision process, the boy cannot show any signs of pain, as this would prove him weak and not fit to become a Mass’ adults. When the ceremony is done, the boy will be gifted with livestock and beads, then he must remain in black clothes for the next 4-8 months until accepted as a true adult member of the Mamas community.
Now that the boys have been circumcised and accepted into the Mass’ community, they are re-located to an Emanate and will proceed with their goal of becoming a Moran’ – A Mass’ warrior. The Emanate is a warrior’s ground where hey will live in houses and compete with other warriors for female companions. Fights occasionally break out between initiates, as they may grow Jealous of one another’s female companions. As a result, most people in these camps carry around spears, clubs and shields Just in case a fight becomes very serious.
The men are kept at the Emanate for up to ten years practicing Mass’ culture and traditions until they are ready for the Unto ceremony. The Unto ceremony is when Mass’ males become Moran’ warriors. The boys will sing and dance to entertain the Lobbing (prophet) in his residence throughout the ay. Then, they must take chunks out of an animal horn that is set on fire. Their last task is then to raise eight bulls as a demonstration to elders. When these tasks are completed, the warriors are prepared to be initiated as a senior warrior – a true to celebrates.
The Mass’ are also very unique in that they structure their entire lifestyle around cattle. As stated earlier, one of the tasks that boys had to partake in is the herding of cattle. This task emphasizes the importance of the cow and teaches the boys about the Mamas way of life. Nothing goes to waste. The cow’s meat, milk, fat, organs and even blood is eaten and bones are used for tools whilst hides for clothes which are then died red or black for ceremonies . The Mass’ are a unique tribe that utilize their distinct music and dance in many ways.
Their chapel style accompanied by grunts, guttural noises, and polymaths provides grounds for their most famous dance: the dumdum. Although very open to foreigners and even tourists, they do not take their traditions lightly. Each member must partake in multiple rites of passage ceremonies first to be truly accepted by society. I admire their culture and how they have remained attached to their way of fife for so many years. As some encampments have become popular tourist destination sites, I hope that I can one day venture out and witness their truly amazing way of life for myself.