Tata – An Exercise in Exorcism
South Africa’s liberation was knitted with a thread and needle by brave men and women who, a few years earlier, had guns pointed at and brutalised each other. They turned their swords into ploughshares and a result was an ideal the country’s first post-Apartheid President Nelson Mandela told a packed Palace of Justice (Pretoria Supreme Court) in 1964 he was prepared to “…live for, but, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die…”
The long struggle for liberation produced freedom songs that bemoaned the atrocities of the time. Some of the best recorded works in South Africa’s musical catalogue were written in the quest for liberation.
Twenty one years later, blues singer Sindiswa Seakhoa, celebrates the miracle of life born out of that suffering in her debut album, titled, Tata. “The album was inspired by the ability to express myself and address issues close to my heart and reflect what I stand for”, Sindiswa says. The energy in the album feels like an exercise in exorcism.
While there has been complaints that post-liberation South African musicians are mirrors of cultural imperialism and have lost the essence of their relationship with rhythm, Seakhoa’s songs flirt with both love, self-love, tragedy, nostalgia, celebration and those folksy songs that remind a listener of the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape, spruced with colourful Tshwane’s rural homesteads and livestock.
You also get a sense of what Bob Marley called ‘Redemption Songs’, those that are void of ego and seem to have been written by a community for its rituals and ceremonies. Isililo selizwe is one such and chronicles conflict zones around the world; from Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Europe, America, etc and asks the question ‘why’. Sindiswa sings, “Afrika yintoni na/ Amerika yintoni na/Asia Europe yintoni naa? Kutheni naa nibulalana okwezilo”. She goes on to beg the Almighty Lord to descend the Holy Spirit to heal the world.
Sindiswa’s strong social, human and cultural activism become also notable in another song “ Khulumani”. Post liberation Africa needs more musical reminders since the shaking off of the colonisers’ yoke often meant keeping cultural practises which in themselves are neo-colonial and oppressive; most notably is patriarchy and religious subjugation. Some of those practises that Khulumani is calling for their revisiting to weigh their relevance in an evolving society include Female Genital Mutilation, which is practised in Africa, Europe, Middle East, North America and Asia which has no medical significance apart from being a form of punishment rooted in archaic perceptions of women as non-sexual beings but only bearers of children. FGM is one of those ethnic practises that must be unyoked like colonisation.
In a song titled Watheth’ uAchebe she pays homage to the departed giant of African literature and sage, Chinua Achebe. The song is carried through a strong instrumental backgdrop and a soulful delivery that makes it the perfect soundtrack for a mind trip in the quest for deeper knowledge of what Achebe portended for Africa’s tomorrow.
In I am Beautiful she oozes self-love which makes her declare, ‘I am beautiful/ I need no validation’, a tongue-in-cheek swipe at identity self-denial by some Africans and other previously-colonised societies around the world.
She goes on to display both her vocal prowess and guitar playing with mild riffs in another heartfelt song, titled, Tata, Ndiyakukhumbula, a tribute to her father, Madiba, and all other men of goodwill. It’s a love song with rhythm to jive to, something often ignored in laments. Music is both entertainment and expression and it has no business being sombre if it is to be enjoyed.
Sindiswa’s inspirational and uplifting songs are reminiscent of artists such as Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Sibongile Khumalo, Cesaria Evora and many others she upholds. The album is nuanced with labations that respond to something uttered by the late mbaqanga Queen Busi Mhlongo: “we were always in the church long before we went to church”.
Apart from her music, Sindiswa has acted in many theatre stage and television productions, including Black Age, by Selaelo Maredi; Cabbages and Bullets, by Johnny Loate, The Transistor Radio and The Wheel, by the late Nigerian political activist, author and playwright, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Bessie Head’s Maru, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Soul City and the Missing Link.
She has also done professional script readings and adjudication for community theatre.
Sindiswa’s music is a Xhosa, English and Setswana fusion of classical African traditional sounds and contemporary rhythm and blues. It’s not Afro-pop in the commercial sense but you can boogie and reflect to all the 9 songs which include Ndibuyile’khaya, Thank You Glasgow, the latter that is a token of appreciation for Scotland’s support for the then-Anti-Apartheid Movement, and many others.
Sindiswa will launch her debut album at the State Theatre, Tshwane alongside jazz legend, Dr Johnny Mekoa, Menyatso Mathole, legendary poets Lefifi Tladi, Keorapetse Kgositsile and other artists on the 30th April 2015 as part of the International Jazz Day celebration.
Released on 6th April 2015
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