Music of an African Queen

by Cebisa Keswa

Thandiswa Mazwai’s [1]latest offering /Ibokwe/[2] consists of a
rooted , rich African sound that takes the listener down a soulful
journey that begins in the open fields and mountains of the Transkei,
passes through a buzzing township sheeben and ends in a night club in
one of Jozi?s busiest streets .
Since claiming her title as one of South Africa?s soul music
pioneers after the release of her first album /Zabalaza/[3]in 2005,
Thandiswa has once again managed to offer a home brewed album that
showcases her  pride in her Xhosa origins and South Africaness.
/Ibokwe/ a nine track album which simply means goat in isiXhosa was
released in May 2009 underGallo Record Company [4]and reached gold in
the first six weeks of its release.

The album itself is a personal narrative which tells a story of her
realising her calling and begging for a cure in/ Thongo Lam /and ends
with /Vakahina/ a kwaito [5]song you would hear pumping out of a car
in Soweto. She goes back to her background as a revolutionary singer
in songs as /Vana Vevhu  /a TshiVenda song with English  poetry by
her sister Ntsiki Mazwai[6], where she says the beautiful country is
dying and she continues to say in /Ngimkhonzile/ the power is in the
in people?s hands and freedom is worth fighting for.

In /Ibokwe /Thandiswa sticks to her distinct singing style of
vernacular with almost all of her songs written in isiXhosa and heavy
drums that go together with a/ masikhandi /influence. The sound and
essence of the album is different from the upbeat /Zabalaza /and this
may lead to her losing some of her more youthful ears she gained
during her /Bongo Maffin /[7]and /Zabalaza /days.

/Ibokwe /showcases a more personal side of Thandiswa, who critics
have referred to as the ?Makeba of our times?, she has her
daughter Malaika and sister Ntsiki feautured in it.  She writes all
the songs and co-produces the album with Thapelo Khomo[8] an
accomplished South African producer and former member of/ Stimela /who
has also produced for South African music legends such as Jabu
Khanyile, Simphiwe Dana and Jeff Maluleke.

The album has gained much appreciation and recognition with one of
its stand out songs/ Ingoma /featuring Bra Hugh Masekela [9](which can
be best described as an African love ballad) nominated for the MTN
record of the year in the 2010 South African Music Awards (SAMAS)
[10]and the video nominated for the 2009 Channel O Music Video
Awards[11]. Thandiswa who has performed all around the world including
the Nelson Mandela Birthday Celebration in New York was also nominated
for the Best Female Artist of the Year for the year 2010 at the

The richness of the language used may limit her audience to only
those who understand the language and the tale behind the lyrics but
she makes up for this by including masikhandi elements in songs such
as /Izilo /and kwaito beats in/ Vakahina/. The abrupt end of /Ingoma/
leaves the listener confused and gasping for more and this lets down
the beautifulness of her work in this song. Fans of hers from when she
was in/Bongo Maffin   /[13]and those who loved the funkiness and
youthfulness of /Zabalaza /may not necessarily fall inlove with this
album as she really adapts a more traditional but Africa jazz vocal
sound than her usual kwaito feel.  What they may appreciate is that
she stays true to her roots and this is found in the song
/Chom?emdaka /which is a cheeky song about a ?diiiirty man and a
diiiirty friend? and /Vakahina /that sounds like a song off a/Bongo
Maffin /[14]album.

Lovers of an African inspired sound will definitely fall in love with
this album and the history and message instilled in it that transcends
space and time makes it an art collective. On the other hand, those
who are still looking for the girl who was a song leader for /Bongo
Maffin /[15]may be a bit disappointed.  This is one of those albums
you would listen on an easy Sunday afternoon in or on a road trip down
the Karoo – a definite must listen!



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