LIFESTYLE

Thandiswa Mazwai's Collection Of The 'Most Rebellious'

Her album Belede is a nostalgic, reflective and powerful collection of songs.

20/11/2016 17:05 SAST | Updated 21/11/2016 14:26 SAST
Thandiswa Mazwai performing in Durban earlier this month.
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 12: Musician Thandiswa Mazwai performs during the Essence Festival All Star music concert at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Durban, South Africa. Synonymous with New Orleans for more than 20 years, the Essence Festival has been exported and adapted for a South African audience for the first time. The six-day festival promotes business, arts, culture, women empowerment, fashion, health and lifestyle.
Music transcends through space and time and Thandiswa Mazwai's much anticipated album release Belede is a classic example. Named after the 40-year-old's late mother, the album is a collection of covers from artists she calls "the most rebellious and monumental" of their time.

The first single "Jikijela" is a song first written by Caiphus Semenya and sung by Letta Mbulu on her 1970 album, Letta. Mazwai adds archival audio from the Fees Must Fall Movement to the song which makes for a chilling effect.

"Jikijela" is about throwing stones and the lyrics clearly state "we will hit them with stones". Stones were a weapon for black protestors against police during apartheid and today they are still the only defence students can reach for when teargas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water canons are fired their way.

The words of the Fallists linger above the melodies and rhythms of pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, drummer Ayanda Sikade and bassist Herbie Tsoaeli.

"From who must I run? From who must I run?"
"Why are you brutalising me?"
"The police brutality you've been seeing must come to an end."
"Fees Must Fall Movement."
"We understand clearly who the enemy is."
"Our futures and the futures of our children and our children's children are at stake."
"Perhaps they want us to be rowdy and violent to show them that we are serious about this."


These are the cries heard on the song which then ends on an apt note with protest song, "Asinamali" (we don't have money).

Mazwai said on Twitter that the song is dedicated to the students who continue to fight for free education in South Africa.

An alumnus of Wits University, Mazwai has been supportive of the movement. She has shown solidarity via social media and was part of a line-up of musicians who were to perform at a failed Fees Must Fall concert.


Belede is inclusive of nine songs by artists who rebelled by singing songs of protest from South Africa and the rest of the world during a time when the government clamped down on freedom of expression. In addition to covering Mbulu and Semenya, Mazwai included songs by Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Busi Mhlongo, Dorothy Masuka and her own song "Ndiyahamba".

As these artists are rebels, so was Mazwai mother which is why she named the album after her.

The second single release, "Wakrazulwa" by the late Mhlongo, is her favourite track on the album. When the legend died Mazwai was overcome with such grief, she lost her own voice and didn't want to sing anymore. Mazwai said she needed this particular album to help her trust herself again.

A video posted by Maria McCloy (@mariamccloy) on

It's not the first time Mazwai uses her music to express her mother's influence in the political sphere. In her debut album Zabalaza, Mazwai pays homage to the stalwarts who gave birth to the liberation of African democracies in "Nizalwa Ngobani?".

"The world changes, revolutionaries die and the children forget," she sings. Asking if we have forgotten who our parents are she calls out the names of Belede, Madikizela, Biko, Sobukwe, Sisulu, Mandela and Nkumrah.

The Makeba song Malaika is a tribute to the singing legend and a dedication to Mazwai's 16-year-old daughter who has the same name as the song title.

Mazwai will be performing live at her launch concert at the Soweto Theatre on Thursday. Having grown up in the township, she could not imagine hosting this event anywhere else, she has said. "Jikijela" and "Wakrazulwa" are available on iTunes.

Belede will officially be released this Friday, 25 November.

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