So off I went to the Boboka Primary School for my weekly Shimaoré class, thinking it would be the usual: a whirlwind of words held together by fiendish bits of grammar invented for the sole purpose of confusing me. But instead, our teacher, Gaucher – his nickname, French for left-handed, because he’s, well, left-handed – wrote the lyrics to Shakasha on the board.
Shakasha biyaya na shigoma, Ngoma zatru za zamani
Yilalihwa Mirereni ya Sufu Ali, Karibu na Malamani etc
Shakasha is a dance. So once he’d got us all singing the song, Gaucher took us out to the balcony and taught us how to do it. (i) Four steps forward, starting with left foot, (ii) Raise right foot, clap, (iii) Three steps back, clap. There you go – simple, isn’t it? Now you know the Shakasha.
As my wife will tell you, having been subjected many times to my valiant, eager, but ultimately sad attempts at le rock’n’roll, I am the world’s worst dancer. But even I could manage the Shakasha. Or so I thought.
Because then it got trickier. You go round in a circle doing the forward – back – clap bit, and two people, alternately spaced, break out of the circle to do the steps in the middle. Then, as they’re going back to their places, the next two do likewise. So everyone does it twice, once with a partner two places to the left, once with a partner two places to the right, with just enough time in between for the intervening couple to have their go.
The result, obviously, was a mess. A sort of Blind Man’s Buff with everyone wearing a blindfold. But Gaucher was very patient, and after an hour of this, we were drenched in sweat but had just about got the hang of it. Then came the announcement: ‘You’ll be performing this in the Baobab Stadium for National Language Day.’
Cue guffaws of incredulity all round. But no, I kid you not. Just two weeks to rehearse. The song, apparently, is an exhortation to preserve Mahorais traditions. I don’t know if Gaucher realises yet that what was once a beautiful dance will henceforth be known as The Shakasha Shambles.