Lesson activities · Singing games · Songs

Bhombela – stone passing game


Click to access bhombela_-_the_stone_game_song_-_full_score___parts.pdf

On a given count, everyone passes their stone to the right. They have to place it on the floor in front of the person on their right. They then pick up the stone that is now in front of them (placed there by the person on their left).

The idea is to settle into a rhythm that goes like this: put-down, pick-up, put-down, pick-up, put-down, pick-up, etc. Things get fun when someone fumbles a stone (the person next to them won’t have anything to pass on to their neighbour, and so the stones start to pile up. When the ‘Stop!’ is called, the person with the largest pile of stones in front of them is out).

You can also get the group to gradually speed up, or slow down.

Variations include building in some floor taps as well, such as: One, two, put-down, pick-up – one, two, put-down, pick-up.

You can also sing a song at the same time. We will Rock you goes well with the two-taps-on-the-floor-before-passing-on example just above.

Eugene taught us a song from South Africa. The song was called Bombhela. Here are the Zulu lyrics of the stone/stick/any object passing game:

Bhombela wes’timela

Bhombela wes’timela

Jaz lam’ lesiliva
Ngal’thenga ngemal’

Jaz lam’ lesiliva
Ngal’thenga ngemal’

The song literally praises the steam train that transports the fathers of the children from their homeland to the bustling cities where they earn their living. The song is in praise of this train because the children look forward to it returning their fathers with gifts. In the case of our song a child fantasises about a shiny silver coat bought with money earned during his/her dad’s migrant work. These migrations could take 9 months, a year, two years or forever…

Another variation is to invent a passing pattern in a different time signature, e.g. 3/4 pattern and singing Eidelweiss.

It is also fun to do a pattern in one time signature and an accompanying song in another time signature. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, as the rhythm established by the passing action is quite strong and grounded, and moves into an automatic mode with the participants.

Source: The stick-passing game | music work

Credit for the game’s explanation from Gillian Howell – www.gillianhowell.com.au
Credit to Eugene Skeef for his explanation of the lyrics and song’s providence.

2 thoughts on “Bhombela – stone passing game

  1. Hi Rob, thanks for the pingback – could you please add an author credit to Gillian Howell for the game’s explanation, and credit to Eugene Skeef (from the comment on my blog post) for his explanation of the lyrics and song provenance? The text you’ve used is quoted verbatim from the linked source, and that should be clearer. Many thanks! Best wishes for your work. Gillian.


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