Tanzania Safaris: Singing Stones of the Serengeti in East Africa by David Bristow

The Serengeti Game Reserve in Tanzania is home to ancient painted stones that sing when struck. Discover this sacred site on your East African safari.

In ancient times in Africa, there was an important kind of music that issued forth, virtually from the ground. In his book ‘The Lightning Bird’ paranormal scientific writer Lyall Watson alludes to special stones. The book is a biography of Adrian Boshier who was initiated into the way of the spirits, the ancient lore of Africa, by one tribe.

Among the things he learned was that, hidden in secret places, were special stones, rocks really, that made music. Not any kind of music, but sounds that could talk to the ancestors. In Africa the spirit world, where the ancestors reside, is the heart of belief systems.

They are to be consulted in times of trouble as much as for important celebrations and rites of passage. When struck these rocks, usually granite or dolerite, issue forth clear, bell-like tones. Rock gongs are invariably associated with rock paintings, implying they are, together, sacred sites.

Rock gongs, or lithophones are found not only in Africa but also at some European and Asian archaeological sites. However, it’s where they are still in use. In the Serengeti Game Reserve in Tanzania. Roger photographed rock gongs on top of a granite koppie with a series of perfectly hemispherical indents ground into the rocks. When struck with a hand-held stone, you have a rock piano.

Local pastoral communities were evicted from the area when it was declared a game reserve back in 1951, without any consideration for their ties to the land. Since then these rocks have remained mute and, like the rock paintings of Africa, offer a fading memory of a time when the ancestors – including ours – roamed these plains.

The first version of this article was posted on 27 May 2014 at 4:46 PM.