By Ogova Ondego
Published February 16, 2018
A new a cappella music album from the home of five-time Grammy Award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the famous reed dance and African military genius and King, Shaka Zulu, is about to be released.
The title of the isiZulu album to be released worldwide by a group of six female singers known as Afrika Mamas on February 23, 2018 is Iphupho or New Dreams.
Listening to the album on Soundcloud, you agree with ARC Music, the British label on which Iphupho is being released, that the all new album carries “heartfelt stories, real experiences and sublime harmonies” by Afrika Mamas who “sing practical songs about their lives”.
The recording is a 14-track album running 40 minutes on social issues faced by contemporary South Africans. Iphupho brings live the rich South African history, especially the legendary Zulu community from Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal province: you visualise Zulu girls and women in their colourful attire complete with beaded head bands, necklaces and belts, warriors clutching short assegai spears and cow-hide shields and even the Battle of Isandlwana in which the Zulu Kingdom clashed with the mighty British Empire on January 22, 1879.
The women, in 2018, sing about their dreams, the happenings in Zululand, bad spirits, piles of rubbish in townships, aircraft noise, mines from which South Africa gets its wealth, stones and rocks, cakes and cookies, lullabies and even ill mothers.
According to ARC publicity, Iphupho, the name and title track of the album written by Ntombi Lushaba, focuses on her dream “to take Afrika Mamas’ music to the world, inspired by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.”
Afrika Mamas’ fourth studio album, Iphupho is produced by Maghinga Radebe, said to be “one of the most well-respected maskandi guitarists and music producers in South Africa.”
South African a cappella, also known as isicathamiya (pronounced as ‘izzee-cat-a-meeya’) and meaning to ‘tread carefully’ or ‘walk softly’, is said to have “started as a predominantly male vocal tradition.”
However, Afrika Mamas appear to be on a mission to both ‘keep with the vocal a cappella traditions of Zulu culture’ even as they break with that tradition if only to educate and entertain audiences with their folk tales. Thus, though they are all women, Afrika Mamas must be self-sufficient in their music delivery: their vocal tones must, and do, cover every pitch of the musical scale which is used on Iphupho as the women tell their own stories about their own daily lives: struggles faced by the dwellers of KwaZulu who often live without electricity or modern sanitation, South African miners earning a living from the depths of the earth,women in Johannesburg making cakes and then selling them on the streets in buckets to make money, the resilience of women carrying pregnancy for nine months and many other issues faced by women on a daily basis. In other words, Afrika Mamas use the predominantly male vocal tradition to tell their own stories from a woman’s perspective for everyone throgh a group founded in 1998 by Tu Nokwe, a South African Afrofolk singer.
So you know who does what in Afrika Mamas, Ntombifuthi Lushaba, the band leader, sings soprano alongside Nonhlanhla NhloeDube; lead singers are Sibongile Nkosi and Fikile Busisiwe Mhlongo.; while Sindisiwe Khumalo is an alto singer, bass is produced by
Sibongile Nkosi and Sister Zungu as Fikile Busisiwe Mhlongo is tuner besides being a lead singer.