Sounds of Africa – Connecting Around the Fire

Cultures & Communities

Our Collective

Grant Woodrow


When you live in remote areas, and in particular remote bush camps, technology is limited, and in some cases non-existent. It was this opportunity to disconnect from urban ‘noise’ that I believe drove me to live remotely for over 20 years. It was certainly a different life, and one where you constantly needed to be aware of your surroundings. Your senses needed to be sharp, whether smell, sight or sound. Every sense played a role at some stage to keep you away from danger.




But I think it was sound that for me was the most endearing. I was always listening (or pretending to). Once it became dark in the late evenings, your sight became less important, and your ability to listen became paramount. Whether you were in quiet discussion; sitting around the fire contemplating the day’s events; or lying in bed before sleep, it was sound that linked you to the never-ending dramas playing out around you on your 24-hour safari – the roar of the lions; the variety of hyaena calls; the alarm calls from prey species staying alert; the animals feeding around your tent; the nocturnal bird calls, particularly the calming nightjars; and even the occasional emergency siren from guests looking for support!




Fire is a companion at night. It draws people closer together and is used very effectively in our camps where we host so many people who seldom experience a fire under a clear African night sky. We have also used the social attraction of fire to promote our staff and their unbelievable ability to dance and sing. There are very few guests left unaffected emotionally after such an evening. I had the privilege of watching and listening to the Mombo choir perform over a period of five years whilst managing this special place, and can honestly say that when I listen to recordings of this music each song takes me back to a special moment in my life at Mombo.




In some cases it was through relationships such as in the case of Mpho ‘Poster’ Malongwa. We worked together on the first rhino re-introductions over 20 years ago. His gravelly voice, domineering size and ever-present three-string guitar made him an unforgettable personality. I would buy him more strings but he always kept them as spares! listen to his song 'Moratowahere.





In other instances it was the purity of voice that silenced the listeners. The beautiful voice of Bategang ‘Mma Flo’ Ntsekwa singing the original ‘Beautiful Botswana’ was something to behold, and somehow always left me teary eyed. Bategang was the partner of one of Mombo’s legendary guides, Nandi Retiyo. Sadly both passed on very young, but their memories shine bright through this music.


And then there were the joint melodies and harmonies of the entire group that invoked different emotions of fun, joy, sadness, and beauty. The quality of the singing was recognised through the professional process of recording, where the sound engineers complemented them and once back in the recording studios, nothing was done to adjust and improve their voices.



Right now, we cannot be around the same fire, but we can be around a fire. Regardless of where you find yourself in this crazy world, make a fire, turn the lights off and turn the music up loud. It will definitely bring you to Africa. See you soon…


At the time this recording was made, the staff received 50% of the sales of the CDs. They agreed that the Rhino Project should receive the other 50%. Neither Wilderness Safaris, Keith Lister and Sony Africa, Brandon Kemp and Deborah Kemp-White who arranged it, or any other party insisted on a charge or share of the profit. This was their show of thanks to the Mombo staff, and also their contribution to a great conservation project.

Grab your headsets and listen to the vibrant tracks below.

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