The clapping of hands to a folksy rhythm, the dance-inspiring thump of goatskin tambourines, the high reedy long notes produced by conical horns carved of apricot wood—these are just some of the sounds of the Southlands.
Like a magic carpet, music is interwoven into the fabric of the region’s life and culture.
- Instrumentalists and storytellers of renown attend great annual festivals, entertaining thousands.
- In street-corner cafes, a lightly strummed oud accompanies a mid-day mint tea.
- Children are taught in family gatherings of the traditional musical poetry and accompanying dances to celebrate each season of the agricultural calendar.
Adventuring bards, those talented musicians and dancers who can evoke and conjure magic from such melodies, have much in common with their Crossroads and Northlands counterparts. But what sets them apart is their choice of instrument, an emphasis on relating fairy tales extolling the commonly held virtues, and ritualistic dances—some with religious significance—for more elaborate conjuring.
Players with bardic characters and GMs running NPCs might consider adding the following touches to give them a Southlands flavor. And perhaps it goes without saying, but even a modest stall in a moderate-sized souk will sell a wide variety of musical instruments, including local varieties as well as those from throughout Midgard.
Act: Theater is a relatively undeveloped art form in the Southlands. But that is not to say the people of the Southlands don’t enjoy a show, welcoming foreigners performing in the Crossroads tradition. Without a native theater tradition to call upon, local bards try to emulate Crossroads performers, studying their stylings, preoccupied with form and presentation (even exaggerating their importance), and asking themselves (and others), “Did I get it right?”
Comedy: Jesters and fools have long entertained the court of the pharaohs, donning leopard skins and parody masks then mimicking the antics of the gods. In any company or enterprise, clever wits find a place to advise and criticize without wearing elaborate garb. And colorful revelers are semiprofessionals who travel the circuit of annual festivals, helping to promote and stage the activities.
Dance: The desert people perform the guedra, a dance that begins on the knees, designed to promote well-being and spiritual love within a community. Their tribal war dance is the ghiaytas, in which a weapon is held aloft.
Keyboard: A favorite instrument of adventurers is the mbira or sanza, a thumb piano with metal or bamboo tines arranged on a wood board that are plucked with the thumb. Its larger cousin is the mbila, a xylophone with musical bars arranged on top of a gourd that is played with a mallet.
Oratory: A rich tradition of storytelling includes poetry, fables, and framed epics (such as the Arabian Nights). There is an emphasis on relating fairy tales with dramatic pauses and familiar phrases that uphold common virtues and delight audiences.
Percussion: A raft of options exist, from using one’s own hands to clap, a clay drum called the tam-tam, a tambourine strung and covered with goat skin called the bendir, and a set of iron castanets called the garagab.
String: Put away your lute and pick up an oud, a type of which is the longnecked guembri favored by folk musicians.
Winds: A select number of bards become proficient in a reed flute known as the gasba. Others prefer the ghayta, a conical horn made of apricot wood that produces a sound similar to an oboe.
Sing: The lila is a ritual trance ceremony that evokes healing and curing magic from spirits and legendary saints by using feverish chants and dances.