The Music of the Zambezi River

| Tamlin Wightman

Royal Chundu canoeing

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein

Growing up, my parents played music at every opportunity. Even camping in the mountains, there was guitar-picking and foot-tapping of some kind. Sure, we liked silence too, but we really liked Bob Dylan. They played endless albums from different musicians, but I seemed to get stuck on only a handful – on songs that rise up out of nowhere today when I’m far from home and make everything, instantly, brighter.

Music connects. For me, it connects my inner child to my adult self. It ties that road trip to the forests of Knysna and the desert expanse of the Karoo in South Africa, with walks among the baobabs and jackalberries in Zambia and the helicopter rides over the Victoria Falls. It binds the Breede River to the Zambezi, school drives to sunset cruises. It connects different places and times and people.

River Lodge

Lyrics that had no real meaning to little me take on a new level of depth when I find myself witnessing all those tambourine men and chain gangs for myself.

On the Zambezi, Jim Croche takes me in his arms and rocks me with the rapids that dance under our canoe and he whispers in my ear… Ol’ man river, that ol’ man river / He must know something, but he don’t say nothing / That ol’ man river, he just keep rollin’ along. In those moments, I feel my past, future and present rollin’ along together, I feel more me than ever before.

Canoeing

When the gentle evening breeze takes me in its sails on a tiger fishing cruise, so does the band, Kansas, reminding me to treasure the moment, because “nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky… And all your money won’t another minute buy / Dust in the wind / All we are is dust in the wind.”

When love sidles up beside me on my villa deck looking over the hippos at Island Lodge, Bill Withers serenades us – Just the two of us / Building castles in the sky. And we see it. The beauty of it all… when the sun comes shining through.

Walking across the jetty to the boat at River Lodge, to catch the sunrise with the early birds, I’m joined by The Drifters chiming, “Under The Boardwalk” and Otis Redding, “On the Dock of the Bay.”

Even in the silence, when I take time to listen to the music of the river, of nature, the songs of years past come rushing in to give life to the stories unfolding before me – the stories of the river, that ol’ man river that just keeps rollin’ on.

Royal Chundu sunset

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

What music greets your ears on adventures down memory lane on the Zambezi?

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