In ancient times in Africa, there was an important kind of music that issued forth, virtually from the ground. In his book ‘The Lightning Bird’ paranormal scientific writer Lyall Watson alludes to special stones. The book is a biography of Adrian Boshier who was initiated into the way of the spirits, the ancient lore of Africa, by one tribe.
Among the things he learned was that, hidden in secret places, were special stones, rocks really, that made music. Not any kind of music, but sounds that could talk to the ancestors. In Africa the spirit world, where the ancestors reside, is the heart of belief systems.
They are to be consulted in times of trouble as much as for important celebrations and rites of passage. When struck these rocks, usually granite or dolerite, issue forth clear, bell-like tones. Rock gongs are invariably associated with rock paintings, implying they are, together, sacred sites.
Rock gongs, or lithophones are found not only in Africa but also at some European and Asian archaeological sites. However, it’s where they are still in use. In the Serengeti Game Reserve in Tanzania. Roger photographed rock gongs on top of a granite koppie with a series of perfectly hemispherical indents ground into the rocks. When struck with a hand-held stone, you have a rock piano.
Local pastoral communities were evicted from the area when it was declared a game reserve back in 1951, without any consideration for their ties to the land. Since then these rocks have remained mute and, like the rock paintings of Africa, offer a fading memory of a time when the ancestors – including ours – roamed these plains.
David Bristow is a Bushtracks' Specialist Guide based in Cape Town. For 13 years David edited Africa’s leading travel magazine Getaway, and his colleagues dubbed him “the walking enviropedia.” Now a freelance writer, he continues to share this knowledge, primarily through storytelling. He is an environmental scientist and has written some 20 books that focus on the natural environment, culture and history of the region. His specific focus is the history of the Cape, its peoples, cultures, politics and how the natural environment has influenced human development there. The geological (including paleontological) and archeological record are among his abiding interests.