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The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Nuts and Bolts: Chopi.

First of all, the Chopi language of the South Eastern coast of Mozambique is not to be confused with the Chopi language of Uganda.

That would be ridiculous.

No, this Chopi is the language also called Copi, Tschopi, Txopi, Txopi, Shicopi and Txitxopi...

...and Chicopi.

Chopi is a tonal language, part of the Bantu family, and I came across it the other day when I was ranting about xylophones. The traditional Chopi xylophone, the mbila, has as its plural form timbila, and as I'm a sucker for an exotic plural I had to find out more.

It turns out that timbila are very often found in the plural, because a typical ensemble consists of about ten timbila, which comes in four sizes. A timbila ensemble play dances, and they also play what we'd call a suite (an ngomi) of ten movements. 

The ensemble leader creates lyrics, and will create a melody that's partly based on the tones of the Chopi language.

Isn't that a fantastic way of composing?

As well as the main melody there'll be another in counterpoint, as well as a lot of improvisation.

As for the Chopi language...

...it's written in Latin script. Only ten per cent of its speakers can read it.

And that's all I can find out about Chopi. Absolutely everything.

Still, I did find some mbila music, and half way through there's some singing, and at the end there's some laughter and chat.

Is this in Chopi?

I wish I knew.

Because surely in this language another great treasure of the world is lying too much neglected.


Nuts and Bolts: Chopi. As far as I can discover no one has the faintest idea where the name of this language came from.



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